All the process projects in the world won’t change your organization to the extent that the people within it can. Processes, after all, should be about people and that’s why your teams need to be at the heart of your quest for process excellence. Genuine transformation comes when your teams make continuous improvement part of their DNA.
That means process improvement can’t sit solely in the hands of process specialists. There is a wealth of information being held by front-line teams who execute your processes every day. While it may take process experts to identify opportunities to improve systems and increase efficiency, those who work with the processes will have valuable insights into how the theory differs from the practice and where improvements could be made.
Bringing teams on board makes a difference
In an article in the Harvard Business Review, electro-optics company Elop revealed how they revived their process improvement through a cultural revolution.
Researchers found there was no shortage of ideas on how processes could be improved, but that creativity was being lost on the shop floor. Employees in the manufacturing and operations teams were frustrated that their ideas weren’t being heard, and their creativity was diminishing as a result. With process innovation stalled, the company made a radical decision to reinvent their culture around valuing team collaboration and contributions, with startling results.
They set about engaging those everyday process users in the process improvement conversation, and quickly discovered that over 80% of their teams had insights and ideas to contribute. By giving employees a transparent and cooperative avenue for communicating those innovations, the researchers calculated that Elop had dramatically improved their production efficiency to the tune of millions of dollars.
When process improvement becomes a conversation
Process collaboration like this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are several key elements that need to be in place to ensure teams will participate meaningfully.
The processes themselves need to be accessible, available in a centralized source that everyone in the business can use. Teams need to be empowered to give feedback and know that their contribution matters, so they can report confidently on the accuracy of the processes being held and the ways they can be improved.
Capturing process feedback like this is a great indicator of the level of engagement your process improvement initiatives are having with teams, and a good way to measure their impact.
The best way to support this approach is with an effective process platform that encourages the process improvement conversation and invites participation at every level. The best process tools will make it easy for teams to review their processes, offer improvement suggestions, and track the difference they make when implemented, with an opportunity to offer further refinements.
The harder it is for teams to participate in this cycle, the less likely it is that they will become invested in it, lowering the level of engagement across the organization.
Supporting continuous process improvement
An effective process platform can support a culture of continuous improvement by:
- Providing clear feedback avenues for process users to comment on the efficiency and effectiveness of their processes.
- Creating an effective audit trail that tracks improvement suggestions transparently and captures the entire process conversation in one place, linked to the relevant process.
- Keeping users and process experts in the loop with real-time notifications when changes are made or suggestions are lodged. By informing the right people at the right time, valuable innovations can be captured and contributors will feel valued, encouraging further engagement.
All these elements add up to a culture of process improvement. The key is gathering and implementing suggestions from the people who know the processes best – the teams that use them every day.
With their support, improvements can be uncovered, refined, and implemented in a sustainable way.
Prioritizing people for process excellence
Capturing ongoing process improvements at every level – from management to the manufacturing plant – depends on allowing those in your organization to provide meaningful feedback in an agile way, with an understanding that it will be heard and considered.
When your process tools and your business approach invite innovation, it engages teams in the practice of continuous improvement. As they see their feedback is being heard and actioned, the effect grows, with others being encouraged to participate and improve the way they work.
It all comes back to people. They’re the heart of any improvement culture, and when they’re invited into the continuous improvement conversation, you have a wealth of knowledge and insight at your fingertips to ensure your processes are being driven further towards excellence every day.