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?
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.
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.
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.
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
Many consultants offer process improvement services alongside their other services, but a consultant who is certified in proven business process improvement methods can help your team reach ambitious goals most effectively. A certified process improvement consultant can help you achieve significant, measurable results such as recapturing capacity and realizing a faster return on new system investment.
Business process improvement methodologies are all about transforming how work is done to improve outcomes. These approaches range from the latest techniques to traditional methods, some of which have been around for almost a hundred years.
Each of these methodologies produces desired results when used as designed. However, not all these industrial engineering techniques and tools work in every situation. For example, Six Sigma makes use of significant statistical tools that are great for challenges encountered at manufacturing companies, but they are of little value to service organizations. Yet the process control component of Six Sigma is valuable to any organization looking to deliver consistent results. The key is to identify and use the right methodology and tools for the challenges at hand.
Some professional certifications have a strict, common definition. For example, the AICPA governs the Certified Public Accountant designation, setting standards that are respected around the nation. Passing the CPA examination was a proud moment in my life, because the certifying exam was so difficult.
In contrast to public accounting, where the content is clearly defined by a single entity, becoming certified in business process management requires demonstration of competency in multiple disciplines. These disciplines overlap each other, as shown below.
Figure 1: Methodology Overlap
The training and certification exam for each methodology includes tools that are not taught or tested in the other disciplines. For example, the American Society for Quality includes only a handful of Lean operations tools in its Six Sigma Lean Operations Black Belt training and certification. The Lean Institute makes use of only a few Six Sigma tools in its program. For most of these methodologies, people seeking certification must prove their mastery through education, testing and, at times, the submission of completed projects that demonstrate their competency.
Business process management certification is important for several reasons. First, it represents independent verification of the applicant’s knowledge and skills. Certification serves as confirmation that the applicant has learned and mastered techniques.
Second, certification supports achieving significantly better outcomes, which is critical as process improvement success is judged on the results achieved. These significantly better outcomes could be fewer errors, higher quality, faster outcomes, a better experience for customers, or a new system installation that pays for itself in two years.
The chart below chart illustrates transformational results some of your colleagues in the philanthropic sector achieved when they used our certified process improvement services. Process steps were reduced and improved. Quality and speed were improved.
Figure 2: IPD Certified Process Improvement Impact
Innovation Process Design (IPD) can teach your team the business process management skills you will need to identify process improvement opportunities on an ongoing basis. By developing proficiency of your own, you will not be dependent upon a consultant to make continual progress.
As IPD’s lead trainer and coach, I am certified, trained, and skilled in Lean operations, Six Sigma, human-centered design, project management, and public speaking. Our team’s depth and breadth of tools and experience enables us to select the tools and approaches that best address your specific challenges and goals. We have extensive experience helping philanthropic organization achieve significantly better outcomes. Our successful track record means you can complete process redesign faster, more efficiently, and with better results. Learn more about these results in these case studies.
Business process management certification matters. Other organizations have experienced the advantages and results that certified process improvement brings. Your organization can too. Contact me, Lee Kuntz, to learn more.
The pandemic has caused disruption to many organizations. The top priority for every organization has been finding ways to operate safely. Some also seek the capacity to do even more: more emergency assistance for their community; more internal and external social justice work; more services to donors. And they need to accomplish these goals in a safe, employee-friendly way.
To address these needs, we now deliver process transformation services virtually, in-person, or in a hybrid format.
Process transformation, unlike process improvement, goes beyond tweaking work steps. It entails a total overhaul to the way work is done. Some consultants produce rudimentary improvement, but a certified process specialist identifies approaches and provides tools to recapture significant capacity. Innovation Process Design (IPD) is certified in proven operations improvement methodologies, including Lean Operations, Six Sigma, and Human Centered Design. We know how to tailor our approach to each organization’s unique mission and circumstances.
As a result, over the last twenty years, clients who have engaged our Think Differently Process Transformation™ services have achieved dramatic reductions in work steps in key areas, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Impact of Process Transformation
By reducing and improving work steps, nonprofits recaptured significant amounts of time, which they invested in new programs that have increased their community impact. Board meetings are more productive and require a fraction of the preparation time that had been invested before. Payments are made without delay, better supporting grantees’ needs. Donor gifts are confirmed in a faster and more efficient manner. Learn more about organizations’ process transformation results here: Process Improvement Case Studies.
In order for process transformation to be successful, staff members must be actively and safely engaged. IPD has had years of experience conducting transformation events in a variety of settings: in-person, virtual, and through a combination of the two. Our prior experience made it an easy transition to offer our clients three ways to engage in process transformation. The advantages of each option are detailed in Figure 2.
Figure 2: IPD Services Channels
Engaging in an in-person deep dive to transform processes is a powerful experience. Yet this face-to-face experience requires committing staff to several full, consecutive days of in-person meetings. Since all-staff in-person meetings are highly unlikely for several months, waiting for in-person services will delay the time the team has to implement their newly designed processes and as a result, delay the benefits of process transformation.
Virtual meetings offer an alternative to full, consecutive day meetings, as three-hour transformation sessions can occur over several weeks. Spreading out this time works well for many organizations’ daily workflow. In addition, there is no travel time or travel cost for a virtual event, lowering the overall event cost compared to in-person meetings by around $2,000. Employees appreciate being able to continue to safely work at home, and the transformation initiative can start any time the organization is ready.
Our hybrid service channel provides the team options regarding who attends from which location. Our transformation trainer and coach, Lee Kuntz, can be at your site or at the IPD office. Your staff can attend in-person or from anywhere they have internet access.
Since work location is becoming more fluid, the hybrid model is likely here to stay. The benefits of the hybrid model, depending on how each organization configures it, include many from both the in-person and virtual channels.
Having these channels available to forward thinking foundations and other nonprofits means employees, whereever they are located, can safely and effectively transform their processes and results.
Many leaders see that their community needs more help. Yet key to taking on this new work is increasing capacity. The good news is that leaders can begin their process transformation journey virtually, in-person, or in a hybrid fashion. Through a safe, flexible, and customized approach, organizations can start realizing the many benefits of process transformation without delay.
As founder and president of Innovation Process Design Inc., Lee has spent two decades using process improvement to solve the unique challenges facing leaders of complex service institutions. Through expert training and coaching, she helps teams look at their work with new eyes, transform how work gets done, and create real results. Learn more about Lee and how she helps organizations at improveprocess.net.
Is your foundation installing new grantmaking or CRM software? Many times, staff are excited to have a new system, but they are hesitant to give up what is familiar and proven. Some philanthropic organizations address these emotions by developing a comprehensive software install plan. Such a plan addresses process change management steps as well as the questions, concerns, and reservations of the people who will implement them. Leaders who took these human factors into account say their investment in thorough planning more than paid off.
More than one hundred philanthropic organizations change grantmaking systems each year. This once-in-a-decade or so task is an expensive and risky venture. Given that most foundations install a new system quite infrequently, employees are understandably unfamiliar with the conversion process. And even though some employees may be tired of the old software, are they ready to significantly change their work processes, roles, and controls to maximize the new system?
One foundation spent a couple million dollars on a new grantmaking system and CRM only to have employees bypass the labor-saving features of the new system. They continued their manual work arounds, including old work steps, spreadsheets, and piles of paper. All the expensive, state-of-the-art bells and whistles that the new system offered went unused.
Achieving buy-in from staff members who will use the new system on a daily basis is a huge contributor to software success. Therefore, meeting employees where they are and readying them to implement the changes ahead is an important project step. Recently we surveyed philanthropic leaders, asking what steps they included in their new software plan to prepare employees for the pending conversion. More than half (58%) of survey respondents said they invested in human and process change management training during their new system install.
Their outcomes? Participants said their training addressed human change-management skills, empowering employees to question how work is done, business policies, and roles and responsibilities. Many also said they believed this training helped them achieve improved outcomes during the new software install and ongoing.
Is your philanthropic organization interested in learning how human and process change management training looks? Register for this upcoming free webinar: Not Just Plug and Play – Process, People and New System Install.
Also, contact Lee Kuntz to discuss your journey and challenges. Lee can share how others who have installed new software have achieved success by incorporating both human and process change management training into their installation plan. Many foundations have helped their employees embrace new and better ways to approach their daily tasks using a new software system You can too!
Have you installed new software that was universally embraced and paid for itself quickly, perhaps even within 24 months?
Attaining widespread employee buy-in at an affordable price is a worthy but difficult goal. Yet as new software competes for funding with other good ideas, achieving this is important. Business process redesign can help philanthropic organizations realize this measure of success.
Philanthropic organizations replace software, including their big grantmaking systems, every five to twenty years. That makes sense, as the philanthropic industry is growing. Contributions to donor-advised funds totaled $37.12 billion in 2018. This represents an 86 percent increase in contributions over the past five years. The related grants increased likewise.
Growth in grantmaking often necessitates employing new tools to stay ahead of the workload. Leaders of philanthropic organizations need to build a strong case to justify investment in costly new software. The best-case scenario is when the new software pays for itself within 12 to 24 months. In order to achieve such a favorable return on investment, employees throughout the organization need to be open to change and willing to explore all that the software has to offer. Business process redesign engages employees in fully learning and embracing new software, inviting them to fully leverage it.
Recently, three experienced technology leaders and I spoke at a Technology Association of Grantmakers webinar about how to leverage business process redesign to promote software acceptance and a quick return on investment. Key points:
Check out this new, free tool that can inform your thinking about software implementation: Business Process Redesign Steps for New Software Success.
Contact me, Lee Kuntz, at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-cost discussion of your situation and recommended steps to redesign your business processes.
Foundations have realized substantial benefits from their new software investment through leveraging our business process transformation coaching and training. You can too!