Process improvement is one of the essential steps of business management. If you run an operation, regardless of the kind—and if you think about it, this is true for every kind of business—you highly rely on these two very important things:
- People – your employees, the set of skills and capabilities they come with
- Processes – the way you plan, manage and ultimately do things
So, thinking logically, the only ways of improving your operation performance are either by improving how your processes perform, how your people perform or both.
Changing people isn’t that simple; although it can be done through training and direct coaching, changing processes is something people do every day.
Process Improvement 101 – Is it that hard?
Process improvement is usually considered as very important in business management. Therefore, there are many methodologies available out there promising miracles, but it’s actually a lot simpler than it seems.
To get things going, there are three topics/questions you need to work your process improvement plan around:
1. Value – Why does your process exist?
A business process is, in its purest concept, a series of related, structured activities or tasks that, together, achieve a particular goal (in this case, provide a product or a service) for a given group of people (also known as your customers).
Your processes’ “goal” is very important and it must be clear. On top of that, if you want your process to work well, you must be very clear regarding what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. In order to work towards process improvement, your process’ “purpose” must be crystal clear.
The first step to do so is to identify the value you offer to your final customer. What does he/she expect? Are they willing to pay for it? This is important to understand why any process exists.
With that in mind, you can create a Value Stream Mapping (VSM). A VSM displays every necessary step to deliver value to a customer, from start to finish. Process mapping is also very common at this stage. This is the moment to understand if any process of your flow is delivering value to the final customer or not.
2. Customer – Who are you working for?
The only person who can actually tell you whether you’re meeting your intended purpose or not is the person you’re actually looking to please: your customer (that’s the person you are working for).
You can have more than one customer profile, also known as buyer persona. The customer is the person that’s paying you for what you have to offer, literally handing over his/her cash in exchange for your product/service.
Having more than one persona is a challenge. It’s essential to know these groups of people very well. Which patterns do they follow? What do they value? How to deal with them?
Answering these questions will make your road to customer success much easier and will focus all your processes on the same objectives.
3. Satisfaction – Is your customer happy with how things are right now?
All process workflows need to be ultimately focused on customer satisfaction. That’s why understanding the value you want to deliver and the persona to whom you are trying to sell is so important.
When you reach this point, many processes were probably improved and you may think that your workflow is perfect. However, it will never be perfect. Customers change. The market changes. New tools arrive. That’s why continuous improvement is so necessary.
As with any continuous process, improvement is a cycle. And the most important input is customer feedback. Conducting customer satisfaction surveys periodically is the best way to adjust your process flows to keep delivering the right value.
Process Improvement 1.02 – If it’s simple, why people make it hard?
The greatest problem companies face with process improvement is that they’re not really focused on what their customer wants. They usually worry about what the shareholders/owners/managers want, so that they decide to improve and optimize with the wrong objective—starting the whole process with the wrong foot.
By focusing on your customers instead of the interests of other people, process improvement refocuses the processes on what’s really important: giving customers what they’re paying for.
So, at the end of the day, process improvement isn’t all about using the right set of tools, process improvement methodologies or techniques. It’s about looking back at your customer profiles and giving them what they want.
How to start improving your processes today?
The first step is to become customer-centric. Then, build your whole business process management strategy around it.
And to run your processes, you can count on Pipefy, the easier way to structure your work and deliver results. Check all Pipefy solutions: