Achieve Process Improvement Results: Start at the End

Tag: community foundation process improvement

Achieve Process Improvement Results: Start at the End

October 19, 2022 | 2:05 pm

Have you been part of a process improvement project that required an investment of hours upon hours over months or even years? Was a process improvement effort stopped because the team could not agree upon which improvement ideas to implement? Or an improvement initiative that made things worse instead of better?

With results like these, no wonder leaders hesitate to authorize process improvement initiatives. Yet some leaders are achieving impressive results from redesigning processes. They cut the work time to serve their customers in half, recapturing and repurposing thousands of hours. At the same time, they deliver better outcomes to their communities, boards, and partners.

These diametrically opposed outcomes beg the question: What creates the big difference in results?

What is Process Improvement?

The difference in results stems, in part, from the varying working definitions of process improvement. One website defines process improvement as “a systematic approach that can be used to make incremental and breakthrough improvements in processes.” While this approach sounds promising, it falls short of bringing transformational change.

A process redesign project that focuses only on improving how work is done will not significantly improve outcomes despite taking many hours of staff time. For example, one team shared that they worked on an improvement project for eighteen months. They met for two hours every month and talked about a host of cutting-edge ideas. Yet the team could not come together behind any idea they were willing to try. After they had invested more than 400 work hours generating ideas without implementing any of them, people started dropping out of the project. Then the CEO identified a new initiative and the team switched its focus to that priority.

Start at the End

I view process improvement more holistically. I see it as a tool to improve outcomes in a broader sense. It can be leveraged to enhance quality, customer experience, accuracy, compliance, or any other key process outcome. When leaders start by identifying the specific outcome(s) that must be improved, they make it possible to achieve impactful process improvement results.

Recently, a chief operations/administration officer (COO) became aware that her organization was incurring significant late-payment penalties. Phone calls about the late payments from both internal managers and external partners were eating up her team’s time, and the organization’s financial resources were being squandered on paying the penalties.

The COO talked with her team about what she saw and then initiated a process redesign project with the specific goal of getting payments out on time. She leveraged my team’s process improvement training and mentoring to help the team better understand what was actually happening. Once her team saw that they could solve the pain they were experiencing, they eagerly stepped forward to be on the redesign team. This team used their new process improvement knowledge to reduce the payment process from 110 steps to 60 steps. Now they are implementing these new ideas and have shortened the time to get payments out. They will no longer be plagued with collection phone calls and can reinvest their time in helping the organization fulfill its key objectives.

Achieving process improvement results starts with identifying the needed outcome(s) first. After all, would you start a road trip without picking a destination? With no destination, you may end up in Alaska, rather than California. Or on the side of the road, out of provisions for the journey. Only through setting a clear destination can your team succeed in achieving the improvement they need.

Focus Delivers Process Improvement Results

As a coach and a trainer, I have opportunities to influence leaders as they seek to achieve process improvement results. Therefore, I first ask which outcomes need to be improved.

When leaders focus on improving specific process outcomes, they foster employee engagement and leadership support. Starting with a particularly painful outcome is a great first step. For example, a director of donor relations received calls from three donors who said they received someone else’s gift acknowledgement letter. After awkward apologies were made and the letters were corrected, the director called me to learn how she could quickly address this situation so it would never happen again. I coached her and the team through a four-hour rapid process improvement event. I encouraged the group to kept one essential outcome in mind: Gift acknowledgements must be sent out to the correct donor every time.

Being clear about the goal helped galvanize the team to take action and be laser-focused in their redesign work. This focus shortened the time needed for the improvement work, as there were no side trips that consumed valuable team time and energy.

Your Next Process Improvement Results Project

When your team needs to attain a given process outcome and is missing the mark, think process improvement. Whether your issue is an unhappy customer, overwhelmed employees, or a board demanding answers, start by identifying the specific outcomes needed. Communicating with employees about the missed mark and committing to resolve it can begin your journey to achieve impressive results.

Some organizations have built their process management skills and routinely fix inadequate outcomes successfully and quickly. You can, too. Contact me, Lee Kuntz, to talk through how your team can undertake rapid improvement that achieves process improvement results and promotes organizational success. Achieve Process Improvement Results: Start at the End

Live, No-Cost Webinar: Your Next Operations Opportunities

May 25, 2022 | 3:00 pm

Operations—the work done to execute an organization’s mission—is critical to achieving success. Even during the pandemic, communities and foundation boards are asking for more from operations staff—more effectiveness, greater efficiency, and a higher degree of accuracy. They want faster turnaround time and the capacity to administer more programs.

Operations and process improvement are key to delivering on these increasing expectations.

In this webinar, you will learn how foundations have improved their approach to getting work done. Next, we will help you identify potential opportunities for maximizing how processes, people, and systems can lead to better outcomes and enhanced impact. Finally, we will explain the steps needed to achieve great results from operations and process improvement.

Speaker: Lee Kuntz, Certified Process Coach and CLSSBB

Date: May 25, 2022, 2:00–2:45 pm CT

Registration Link

Once you register, you will receive a Zoom meeting invite. We hope you will join us for this free informational session.

IPD webinar 2022 – Next Operations Opportunities

Are you also interested in learning to transform process and outcomes?

Do you want to learn to transform processes and operations, which is different content than this webinar? Then contact Lee Kuntz at 651-330-7076 or lee @improveprocess.net to share your needs. And click here to experience our process deep dive. 

Live, No-Cost Webinar: Your Next Operations Opportunities

March 28, 2022 | 1:26 pm

Operations—the work done to execute an organization’s mission—is critical to achieving success. Even during the pandemic, communities and foundation boards are asking for more from operations staff—more effectiveness, greater efficiency, and a higher degree of accuracy. They want faster turnaround time and the capacity to administer more programs.

Operations and process improvement are key to delivering on these increasing expectations.

In this webinar, you will learn how foundations have improved their approach to getting work done. Next, we will help you identify potential opportunities for maximizing how processes, people, and systems can lead to better outcomes and enhanced impact. Finally, we will explain the steps needed to achieve great results from operations and process improvement.

Speaker: Lee Kuntz, Certified Process Coach and CLSSBB

Date: March 24, 2022, 1:00–2:00 pm CT

Registration Link

Once you register, you will receive a Zoom meeting invite. We hope you will join us for this free informational session.

IPD webinar 2022 – Next Operations Opportunities

Live, No-Cost Webinar: Maximize New Software Investment and Success with Process Redesign—Three Case Studies

May 19, 2022 | 3:42 pm

When a foundation updates its software system, the purchase typically requires years of research and a financial investment that can run well into six figures. So it’s important to make the most of that purchase. The most effective way to do that is to use system upgrades as an opportunity to reexamine internal processes.

In this live, no-cost “About Process Transformation” webinar, you will hear a couple of best practices for redesigning and maximizing business processes and practices during new system implementation.

Speaker: Lee Kuntz, Certified Process Coach, CLSSBB

Webinar: Thursday, May 19, 2022; 1:00 pm–1:45 pm CT

Register in advance for this meeting:

Registration link

Once you register, you will receive a Zoom meeting invite.   We look forward to you joining us for this informational session.

 

Presentation link: IPD webinar 2022 – Process Redesign to Maximize New Systems Success Three Case Studies

Are you also interested in learning to transform process?

Do you want to learn to transform processes and operations, which is different content than this webinar? Then contact Lee Kuntz at 651-330-7076 or lee @improveprocess.net to share your needs. And click here to experience our process deep dive. 

Live, No-Cost Webinar: Three Ways to Ready Operations Staff for More Change

May 11, 2022 | 4:06 pm

Is your operations staff ready for more change?

Our recent survey of the philanthropic sector found all responding foundations expect major change in 2022 and beyond. Potential changes include implementing new systems, hiring new leaders, adding new programs, or accommodating new expectations.

Yet many operations employees—the people who are most accountable for implementing new ideas—are worn out and not ready to take on the challenges that inevitably accompany change.

Over the course of 100 operations projects with philanthropic organizations, Lee Kuntz has regularly encountered employees hesitant to change how they do their work. In this live, no-cost webinar, Lee will share three ways to get operations staff ready to make positive, productive changes.

Speaker: Lee Kuntz, Certified Process Coach and CLSSBB

Live webinar date & time: May 11, 2022; 2:00–2:45 pm Central Time

Register in advance for this meeting:

Registration Link

Once you register, you will receive a Zoom meeting invite. We hope you will join us for this free informational session.

Link to presentation: IPD May 2022 webinar – Ready Staff for More Change

Are you also interested in learning to transform process?

Do you want to learn to transform processes and operations, which is different content than this webinar? Then contact Lee Kuntz at 651-330-7076 or lee @improveprocess.net to share your needs. And click here to experience our process deep dive. 

Three Ways Philanthropic Operations Create Community Impact

November 16, 2021 | 2:47 pm

Is your organization looking to make a bigger community impact? Your operations—that is, how work is done—can be a powerful contributor in accomplishing your organization’s mission.

Operate for Impact

For philanthropic organizations, the nuts and bolts of operations are what enable teams to award and deliver grants quickly, set up and service fund accounts accurately, and work effectively with their boards. Some organizations have discovered that fine-tuning these operations equips them to magnify their community impact.

These organizations function at their best when their processes, systems, and people are maximized. Here are three ways organizations can maximize to operate for impact.

Better service to the community. When an organization’s grantmaking work steps are consistently carried out as designed (including substantial error proofing), grants are issued accurately. Proactive operations staff make these grants in the manner that is best for grantees, whether electronically or with hard-copy checks. Having processes in place to verify email and postal addresses eliminates the need to reissue communications or follow up on missing grant payments. When organizations manage processes for accuracy and a high service level, everyone’s time and energy can be spent wisely.

Quicker turnaround. Most organizations spend hundreds of thousands—even millions—of dollars on technology. From my experience, few of them use more than half their system’s capabilities. Instead they rely on manual processes and system work-arounds, all of which slow the delivery of payments to grantees and receipts to donors. When payments and receipts do not go out on time, grantees and donors typically start calling to find out the status of their payment or donation. Fielding calls and tracking down an explanation takes precious time away from the main purpose of the philanthropic effort.

A grantmaker who makes best use of the available tools, such as leveraging templates in Outlook and creating system reporting rather than relying on manual work-arounds, gets grants and confirmations out the door fast. The donor or grantee’s focus on creating an impact continues without disruption.

Efficiency that creates lower administrative costs, enabling more community investment. Philanthropic work, whether related to program design or operations, is paid for by fund expenses. Therefore, greater internal costs mean higher fund expenses and less money available for making a philanthropic impact. Doing operations work more efficiently can help decrease internal costs. A key component to that efficiency is maximizing staff time.

Yet too often, operations staff are hired and then shown their desk and a pile of work. This may unwittingly imply that their role is less important than the functions carried out by program designers.
Nonprofits that support their staff by defining clear roles, providing purposeful training, and delineating business rules find that their staff gets work done faster and better. And not inconsequentially, their employees are satisfied, productive, and energized.

Improving Operations Achieves Impact

Grantmakers and operations staff working in finance, technology, human resources, and other areas have an important role to play in enhancing efficiency. By proactively managing and improving processes and making best use of systems, you can increase the philanthropic impact of your organization.

Learn more about how to enhance operation in this recently published article: Invest in your operations teams to drive your mission forward – PhilanTopic | PND | Candid

About the Author

Lee Kuntz is founder and president of Innovation Process Design, Inc. As a certified process coach, she provides process improvement training and coaching to help teams look at their work with new eyes, transform how work gets done, and create tangible results in operations efficiency and effectiveness.

Streamline Through Effective, Paperless, Electronic Payments

January 14, 2021 | 1:27 pm

Did the pandemic impact your grant payments? Are employees moving paper from location to location to get checks out? Are they working extra-long hours? Does it take more time to get checks out? What feedback is your organization getting from grantees and vendors about paper checks?

One organization looked into their busy season and decided to proactively take action to help employees and the community thrive. Here is their story:
Streamline Through Effective, Paperless, Electronic Payments Case Study.

Contact Lee today to discuss your challenge.