Registration for Think Differently Process Improvement Training™ in Dallas on May 2 closes next Friday!
This one day of learning and practice is the first step to solving pain points. Foundations who started with this step have moved from overwhelming workloads to investing recaptured time in their community. They are fully using their expensive technology. Grants go out better and faster. These foundations now say yes to their Board of Directors.
Hundreds even thousands of hours of time are just waiting for you to find. Take this first step to be the hero to your foundation.
Finally, you have approval to bring on a brand-new, expensive system to help do the most important work! Your team has been talking about it for years. The organization has committed to achieving substantial benefits from the big investment—commitments including everything other than your firstborn.
The Critical Question
You take a deep breath and wonder how you will put the new system in place in a way that fulfills all those promises. Putting a new, expensive system is place is not something teams do every day. In addition, it requires significant incremental work. Therefore, many teams look outside the organization for a skilled technology consultant.
One of the first questions a consultant will ask is, What steps do you want to automate through this system? Answering this question is critical. It makes the difference between delivering on promises and living with regret for years to come.
Some organizations answer the automation question by explaining exactly how work is being done now. This involves talking through the steps that happen when work goes well. But even a smooth progression through the steps may entail shuffling multiple paper copies, handing items back and forth until they are correct, and fielding phone calls from customers wanting to know where something is. Is that really the process you want to automate?
Recently a foundation leader shared with me that her organization spent nearly $750,000 on a new online, interactive grants system implementation. Yet after the software was installed, the employees continued to follow the labor-intensive processes that they were accustomed to. For example, they still made three copies of every grant check. They handwrote donor requests and then entered them into the online portal. They mailed letters instead of using the online portal or email features. Because employees didn’t capitalize on the capabilities of the new system, the team received very little benefit from their big investment. And everyone talked about how the implementation was a disaster.
Most technology consultants will help you map out and automate how work gets done now. And most system manuals will show you which screens and fields to use. But will these steps help you decrease the time and work it takes to serve your clients?
An Approach to Deliver on Promises
Some organizations go about new system implementation differently. They redesign how they do work before a new system is installed using proven business process improvement business process improvement business process improvement. Then, when their technology consultant asks what work steps they want to automate, they can speak with knowledge and confidence.
For example, recently a chief financial officer utilized a process improvement specialist over one week to help the team redesign processes shared his outcomes. “We designed the best process for us. Then, we pushed the consultant and technology to work for us, rather than bending to what the vendor said we should do.” This leader said that between process redesign and making full use of the new tool, they recaptured about 1,500 hours of work time, which they reinvested into serving the community.
Would recapturing work time while delivering better and faster results be valuable to deliver on promises to leadership and the board?
Check out this companion blog to learn more: Process Redesign—Before or After New Software Install?
Before your organization installs a new system, contact me, Lee Kuntz, to learn more about how your organization can get real value from your new system and processes. Learn how leveraging a process specialist for one week can help you deliver on your promises. Others have redesigned processes and installed new systems with game-changing results. You can too!
Public charities and private foundations play a vital role in society, addressing challenges that affect underserved and at-risk populations and communities. Yet, the very organizations that help so many people also face their own challenges, including limited staff resources and shrinking budgets, that can keep them from achieving their missions.
There are many factors affecting resources that organizational leaders can’t influence. But one frequently overlooked tool has the power to get more employees out of the back office and out serving their community: continuous process improvement.
Learn more in my article published in Philanthropy News Digest
Work The Process: Four Keys to Maximizing Limited Resources
Susan sat in an operations meeting, listening to the discussion of this week’s customer complaints. This time a customer complained that he did not see his request in the online portal as expected. Last time it was about a missing transaction confirmation.
The subject line of the meeting invite was “Process Improvement.” However, Susan wondered: What is process improvement? And what does it have to do with addressing customer complaints?
What Is a Process?
To understand process improvement and what it can achieve, first we need to understand the basics.
A process is a series of work steps done to achieve a specific outcome. For example, each morning you strive to make your favorite cup of coffee. You have steps you do every day to create that tasty cup. These steps may be:
1. Measure water.
2. Pour water into coffee maker.
3. Turn on coffee maker.
4. Set brew time.
5. Place coffee cup under coffee maker spout.
6. Insert the coffee pod into the maker.
7. When coffee maker sounds, remove your cup.
8. Add just the right amount of the right creamer.
Outcome: Your favorite cup of coffee.
Whether it is making that favorite cup of coffee, creating requests in the online portal, or delivering transaction confirmations, the process consists of the steps taken to perform the work and the outcomes they produce.
What Is Process Improvement?
Process improvement is changing the steps of a process to improve the outcome. For example, back to that cup of coffee. Have you had a cup of coffee at a restaurant that was better than yours?
You may go home and try a different approach to get that better cup of coffee: adjust the brew time, use colder water, or use less water. You keep adjusting various steps until you get the desired results. Tweaking the coffee-making process in order to get a better outcome is process improvement.
Returning to Susan’ situation, the “Process Improvement” meeting is an opportunity for the team to improve how work is done to eliminate customer complaints.
What are the best process improvement steps to achieve the results you need? Check out my companion blog to learn about approaches that improve outcomes. 4 Process Improvement Approaches: Which One Works Best?
In summary, what is process improvement? When done well, it solves pain points seen at work each day. Process improvement can eliminate customer complaints, create capacity, solve thorny issues, and create a return on a major investment in a new system. When done well, process improvement changes how work is done and can help you achieve the results you need.
When you need to change outcomes of your processes for your complex service organization, contact me. We can talk through the outcome you need and how process improvement can get you there. Others have successfully redesigned their processes to improve outcomes. You can too.
Service organizations work hard to solve their pain points. Many look to deliver more to customers, save time and get employees home at night. Process improvement is a change in work steps to improve outcomes and is a tool that can be used to accomplish all of this. There are several approaches to process improvement.
Which Process Improvement Approach Should Your Team Use to Achieve Success?
To answer this question, we surveyed leaders of complex service organizations including: community foundations, nonprofits, government, financial and mortgage organizations. We found leaders generally use four different types of process improvement:
• Experience based
• Technology driven
Informal Process Improvement: This see and adjust approach is used to solve clearly seen pain points which have clear solutions. Organizations use what they already know and understand about the pain. They pick a solution and implement it to plug holes or gaps quickly.
Example: Alex would really like to get home from work before his children are in bed. He takes a closer look at what happens on the days he stayed late. He finds his late nights are the same days that customer checks were not entered into the system accurately. With that in mind, Alex improves his check entry process by balancing as soon as he is done entering checks. Alex uses logic and his knowledge of what is happening now to improve the process. Now, Alex gets home in time to read book after book to his children before they go to bed.
Experience Based Process Improvement: Over time and experience, employees develop best practices that work well. The employee understands the best practice and has seen the results it achieves. The implementation of a best practice experienced by an employee is a good form of process improvement.
Example: Susan is thrilled to start a new job within operations at a mortgage organization. She quickly notices they do things differently than where she came from. Now, it is hard to track where mortgage files are in the process. Under tight pressure to close mortgages quickly, Susan sees the team wasting valuable time looking for files. Based on her past experience, she knows if files are accessible and seen by the entire team, this time will not be wasted. After Susan introduces the idea, explains the value and how it works, the team decides to implement the idea. Now the mortgage operation flows smoother and originators are heroes to their clients. Susan used her experience in past processes to bring improvements to her colleagues.
Technology Driven Process Improvement: Technology tools are critical to complex service organizations. These tools can help innovate and drive faster, more consistent outcomes. This potential payback can influence these organizations to use complex expensive technology.
Installing new technology is only one step towards achieving innovation and delivering faster, more consistent outcomes to clients. The other critical step is redesigning processes to maximize the new technology. Redesigning process and implementing technology go hand in hand to achieve the needed results and return on an investment in technology.
Example 1: Warren County installs a new fee billing system. The county’s technology director, Jean, sponsors a meeting with directors and finance to train them on what the new billing system can do. With that knowledge, the team maps out the new work process to leverage what the new system offers. The team also identifies that the new billing must get bills out within 5 days. Based on the team’s 5-day need, the technology and processes are adjusted until the team achieves the 5-day results.
Example 2: Chang must assign volunteers within one day for Renew, a nonprofit organization. Right now, he needs to look up each volunteer’s availability in the system to find the right resource. Due to this time-consuming step, Chang rarely meets that one day goal. He talks with his technology partner, requesting a better way to see volunteer availability. IT talks with Chang, mapping out the current volunteer assignment work flow. IT also asks questions to identify what Chang needs to accomplish. IT builds a report that Chang now runs every day that lists volunteers’ availability. Using the report, Chang now assigns volunteers by noon and spends the rest of his day in the community helping clients.
In both examples, process mapping was used to help the team. Identifying required outcomes is another process improvement tool that they utilized. The employees in both examples only achieved the needed results by applying both technology change and process improvement.
Transformational Process Improvement: There are times when leaders need to significantly improve results. They need big gains like recapturing half their operations time or eliminating errors. These leaders use more advanced process improvement tools. This includes tools like traditional mapping, select Lean service operations, quality management and change management tools.
The need to use a selection of proven tools comes from evidence. ProSci, a nationally respected change management organization, conducted a survey of 150 process improvement projects. Over half of these projects “failed to be completed or did not achieve bottom-line results.” They found that the key success factors were proven tools, compelling results, accountability, support, involvement and cultural transformation.
These key success factors are foundational in transformational process improvement.
Example: A large community foundation has a big problem. A donor, who is also a board member at this foundation, shared that other organizations pay out his grants in 5 days. They are operating 10 days faster than this foundation. Leaders from this foundation heard the message and know they need big transformation to cut their time by two thirds. The CFO learns about transformational process improvement – advanced process improvement. The CFO gains support to train employees in advanced process improvement tools. They leverage an advanced process improvement coach in a four-day rapid improvement event to help employees see their opportunities, allowing them to transform their grantmaking processes. Utilizing their skills, the team independently implements the new and dramatically improved grantmaking process. Ninety days after implementation, this foundation team checks their results and celebrates. They now get grant checks out in 4-5 days rather than 15.
The bottom line: transformational process improvement leverages advanced tools delivering advanced results.
The Bottom Line
So how does a leader know which process improvement approach to use to be successful?
The answer: It is all about the results the leader needs. Contact Lee Kuntz to talk through your needs and to identify the approach that can work for you.
Summary: Leaders of complex service organizations can select the right process improvement approach for their organization by first looking at what they need to achieve and how important it is to get those results. Then, pick the process improvement approach that matches those needs.
At Innovation Process Design we are experts at helping teams successfully improve process and results. Your team can succeed too. Contact Lee Kuntz to talk about what you’re experiencing and how leaders have solved this pain.