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.
Many leaders within service industries invest a ton of time, money, and resources into process improvement projects. Leaders from community foundations, government agencies, nonprofits, and mortgage lenders – to name a few – work hard to improve outcomes. Unfortunately, national research shows that more than half have failed. Keep reading to learn how to avoid being part of this statistic.
These leaders take on process improvement projects with good intentions as they try to overcome the pain points they are experiencing. They are expected to do more with the same resources. Some are experiencing errors or gaps in their service to customers. And quite frankly, many employees are simply burned out, resulting in turnover. Process improvement is a great tool to help leaders of complex services organizations turn this pain into achievable outcomes.
In its simplest form, process improvement is defined as a change in work steps to improve outcomes. When an end-to-end operations process is looked at with an eye for dramatic improvement, it becomes a process improvement project. When a more complex process is included in the project, there is a larger potential for improved results. Yet, process improvement projects are risky and frequently fail.
In a ProSci national survey of 150 process improvement projects, results show the majority failed. They found that when leaders rely only on traditional approaches and tools like mapping and brainstorming, the majority of times process improvement projects do not succeed. The lack of proven tools and approaches was a major reason for failure.
If you see pain points you want to solve, process improvement works. When planning to invest in process improvement, you NEED it to succeed.
We’ll illustrate this through our experience with community foundations.
1. Utilize proven tools.
Foundations consistently use tools that accomplish the results they need. For example, foundations use proven granting practices to create an outcome in the community. Similarly, process improvement projects succeed when the proven process improvement tools are used.
2. Train your team on these proven tools.
Community foundations need trained resources for key tasks to ensure they are successful. For example, only a trained accountant is hired for an accounting role. The same is true for process improvement skills. Employees will successfully see their process improvement opportunities and solve foundation pain points when they are trained in the proven process improvement tools.
3. Build process muscle through coaching to achieve success.
Everyday foundation leaders mentor employees until they round that learning curve. Accountants are only allowed to work independently when they prove they are ready. The same is true with the team’s new process improvement skills. As a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, I needed to submit two successful projects before I was certified. Early on, I had several projects that were not successful which could not be submitted.
Process improvement best practices show the need for employees to use these skills at least twice before they are successful and independent in getting great results. Therefore, leveraging a process improvement coach makes your learners successful the first time. They are coached to build process skills, while strengthening their process muscles. – resulting in success and independence.
Foundations have achieved impressive results by leveraging proven process improvement tools and approaches. Their employees were trained and coached to dramatically improve these outcomes.
Case Study: A chief financial officer at a large community foundation saw process improvement projects fail – swirling for months, dying out unfinished or not delivering results. Learn how their most recent improvement project recaptured over 60% of the team’s time and now deliver to the customer faster. Build Improvement Skill-and-Will.
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.