Many foundations are working deep into the night to get COVID-19 grants out. Thank you to those colleagues who are standing shoulder to shoulder with our nonprofits to help our community at this challenging time.
The good news for these community warriors is that they can take the first step to cure this capacity pain and achieve great results through our live online Think Differently Process Transformation Training™. This nuts-and-bolts, live online training is tailor-made for foundations. Attendees have recaptured time, delivered error-free results in half the time, maximized use of expensive technology, and created a smooth flow between departments. The secret to their success? These foundations built their process muscles through our transformation training and coaching. Then they applied these skills for ongoing improvement.
Live online training dates: September 14-17, 2020. 1:00 pm-3:00 pm CT. Class limit: 8 attendees.
Included in the training:
Registration deadline: September 4, 2020. Learn more or register at: Think Differently Process Transformation Training for Foundations – September Live Online Session
Every day teams can manage their processes to deliver winning results. By both improving and controlling critical processes, these teams can both make a big impact and get home at night.
Most of us have improved processes. We have tweaked the steps of work, fixed breaks, and automated. The next step—process management—is a powerful approach that can be the difference between failure and success.
Now you can measure your team’s process management muscles through an eight-question survey. This survey helps you see beyond tweaking, to fix pain points and transform outcomes. Through the survey’s results, you can discover your team’s process management strengths and opportunities.
Select the survey answer that best reflects how your team handles your critical processes. Eight-Question Survey Link
Do you want to learn more about how these important concepts can create results for your team? Then complete the survey, add your email address, and submit your answers, thereby emailing yourself your answers.
Our process coach and trainer Lee Kuntz will also receive a copy. Your contact information will not be used for any other purpose. Lee will then connect with you to hear and answer any questions about how each of these key process capabilities can help your team achieve the results you need.
Have you improved your work process, tweaking how work is done or fixing broken steps? Most agree process improvement is good. Yet many staff members are too busy fighting fires to think about how to do their work. They get stuck in the rut of doing things as they’ve always been done. The answer to this miserable dilemma? Moving from the small tweaks associated with traditional process improvement to radical process transformation.
A starting point in thinking about process improvement is understanding what the term even means. In a recent online search, I found ten different definitions for ‘process improvement.’ Many people see process improvement as adding, deleting, or modifying work steps to change how work is done.
The problem with this commonly held definition is that the focus is on tweaks to change to work steps rather than improving outcomes. For example, suppose I want to move from balancing between sources with an adding machine to using an Excel spreadsheet. This improvement seems like a positive change. When I pitch this to my boss, I focus on how the process will change. My boss asks how much time the change will take to implement. That use of resources gives her pause, as she knows our big workload. Most likely, she will say we don’t have time to make changes right now. We need to stay the course and take on the next emergency. We can do the improvement later, when things get better.
Since I did not identify the positive impact of my proposed enhancement, my boss didn’t see its value compared to the other big priorities crashing through her door. Too often, defining process improvement as tweaking how work is done causes this important tool to be ignored.
Process improvement can truly produce more favorable outcomes than had been realized before. Without it, employees can become locked in a vicious cycle in which underlying process flaws are not corrected. As in the example below of an improperly prepared check, both customers and staff can become frustrated by processes that don’t work as they should.
If the cycle consists of complaint-pull-fix without also investing time in fixing the issue for all customers, similar problems are likely to occur in the future. That means staff will work longer and longer hours responding to emergencies, getting further and further away from the good work they want to do. Eventually staff may burn out and leave, placing a greater burden on remaining employees to do the work.
I have experienced this vicious cycle in my own life. Early in my career, I accepted a job in an area that claimed to promote great work-life balance. My superiors promised there would be overtime only at year-end. Once I was there, I found that by overtime, they meant seven days a week for six weeks! I barely saw my young children for a month and a half. When I commented about the excessive overtime, the staff said it was always that way, and to just “suck it up” because it would not change. I questioned the culture and the paradigm, and I wondered if things would ever get better. That unpleasant situation has inspired me for the rest of my career.
To correct agonizing situations such as the one I survived, I rename, rephrase, and reposition process improvement in my training by sharing the story of process transformation.
Process transformation is the use of proven process improvement tools to maximize what the organization has now to achieve an improved outcome.
Process transformation solves pain points organizations experience so they can work toward efficient, effective, and high-quality outcomes for their customers. Organizations have achieved the following outcomes from this approach.
There are three important points in this definition of process transformation.
1. Proven tools. A recent survey by change management specialist Prosci indicated that the majority of process improvement projects fail, primarily due to lack of proven tools, experience, and support. The good news is that there are tools and training that offset this risk. The key is to leverage the tools and training that work with your industry and situation. For example, quality management tools require rigorous training on statistical analysis and are great for manufacturing organizations. However, statistical analysis principles have little use in a service organization. A better tool for a philanthropic or charitable organization would be one that helps employees identify wasted steps.
2. Maximize what the organization has now. Employers manage more than work steps or process to achieve the outcomes they need. They leverage business policies, roles and responsibilities, technology, work steps, and other elements to create desired outcomes. Some of these components are helpful and efficient, while others end up undercutting objectives. For example, the policy of a foundation I am coaching might require that grants be paid within two weeks after being approved. If the competition can pay a grant within three days, I ask my client to identify and maximize everything they have now to achieve faster turnaround.
3. Improved outcomes. To ensure that the desired results are achieved, process transformation identifies the needed outcomes before the improvement work begins. To illustrate, a team may decide they need to recapture and reinvest half the time they are now spending to issue grants. This may amount to one hour per grant, for a total of 500 to 1,500 work hours. Once leaders understand the payback from their investment in process transformation, they support the investment. Learn more about this concept in my companion blog post: Achieve Process Improvement Results: Start at the End.
Process transformation requires an investment of both time and resources to be successful. When leaders and staff members learn about tools that will help them work smarter rather than harder, they find that their investment pays off. The graph below shows immediate results achieved when process transformation tools were used in four recent projects:
We have been coaching and training teams in process improvement and transformation for more than two decades. A recent study of our clients indicated that their returns overwhelmingly offset their investment. Typically, we have found that the first year’s results more than cover the costs of the training and staff time investment, with future years’ savings being “gravy.” Imagine sharing with your organization’s leadership or board that your team can take on more without additional staff because the team has recaptured and repositioned 1,000 to 2,000 work hours.
Now back to my story. After being told to “suck it up,” I was determined I would never again work that much overtime. Therefore, I sought and gained leadership approval to conduct a process transformation project. I committed to leadership that I would shorten the year-end work time for everyone. To do so, I partnered with my team using proven improvement/transformation tools to maximize everything we already had. As a result, we cut the steps to complete our year-end reporting in half. In the next year-end cycle, the team worked only one weekend rather than the six weekends we had with the old process.
If your team works overwhelming hours, reacts to constant emergencies, or is not maximizing expensive software, process transformation may be the answer to your problems. With an initial investment, your team can solve its pain points, recapture time, and deliver better and faster outcomes to your customers.
Learn more by leveraging our free website assessment tools to diagnose your pain point, or contact Lee Kuntz to talk about your needs. Organizations have found hundreds—even thousands—of work hours to reinvest in serving their customers. You can, too
An investment in a nonprofit back office can reap benefits in the community.
Nonprofits work long hours to strengthen their community by decreasing homelessness, reducing racism, and improving the environment, to name just a few ways. Philanthropic organizations invest in these charities to help achieve those community-changing results. Yet how do these charitable organizations—the healers—cure their own pain and build their own capacity to do more?
In September, more than 80 social-sector financial staff gathered to learn how to transform their back offices to recapture and reinvest time back into community-building services. Attendees reported gaining many new ideas on ways to streamline what they were already doing.
Learn more at: Healers heal themselves – nonprofits build internal capacity
See the presentation document at: NFG Sept 2019 Presentation Transform AP Presentation!
Has your organization brought in new software with great promise and not achieved the desired results? Has the new software failed to improve the workflow? Has implementation of new software damaged credibility?
Now you can both learn and share your experience through our “Maximize Business Process and Outcomes During New Software Install Survey”. The goal of this ten-question survey is to gather philanthropic organization leaders’ views and experiences in redesigning processes when installing new software. The survey responses will be aggregated to identify best practices.
Survey link: Maximize Outcomes During New System Install Survey
Thank you for investing in this survey, yourself and others in the philanthropic industry!
Donor-advised funds are a big growth area for foundations. More donors are contributing to these accounts at their favorite foundation than ever before. Yet these funds provide little margin to pay for the services they require. Foundations are squeezed between low margins and high service requirements as the number of funds climbs.
Some foundations address this challenge through maximizing each donation opportunity. Some are looking internally. These foundations are decreasing the labor and cost to serve donor-advised funds while delivering better and faster results to their contributors.
When a donor contributes to a donor-advised fund at a public charity, that person is generally eligible to take an immediate tax deduction. Then those funds are invested for tax-free growth, and the giver can recommend grants to virtually any IRS-qualified public charity. Donor-advised funds are the fastest-growing charitable giving vehicle in the United States, because they are one of the easiest and most tax-advantageous ways to give.
Public charities, mainly foundations, receive minimal fees for the work they do to manage donor-advised funds. Yet these funds require substantial services, including investment management, grant payment, and grantee due diligence. For many foundations, the labor and cost of performing these tasks approaches or is greater than the fees they receive for these accounts. As these funds continue to proliferate, some foundations find that managing them siphons significant time away from fulfilling their essential purpose.
Some of these foundations are turning to advanced process improvement to decrease their labor and costs as they support their donor-advised funds. Once they get trained on the tools that are working for community foundations, these proactive leaders are redesigning process to recapture work time while delivering consistently good service to donors.
For example, one community foundation used process implement training and coaching to go from 75 to 39 steps in completing donor-advised grants. Once the new steps were implemented, their average processing time dropped from 50 minutes to only 25 minutes. With the savings of time, the foundation is able to deliver grants more predictably and efficiently—to the delight of donors and the nonprofits that receive those grants. In addition, the recaptured work time is now being used to address other community needs.
Foundation leaders are savvy. They constantly tinker to improve how back-office work is done. But the donor-advised grant squeeze may require more than a few tweaks in process. It may require making an investment in advanced process improvement.
Contact Lee Kuntz to learn how to address this squeeze through redesigning processes. Several community foundations have built their process knowledge and redesigned their donor-advised fund processes to recapture thousands of hours and deliver better and faster results. You can too!
Discover the tools service and business leaders adopt to manage and improve their processes and achieve greater success. Watch video >>
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.
Philanthropic organizations, including community and private foundations, are working hard to increase their impact in their community. As resources are tight, some foundations use process improvement to recapture and reinvest their time. Others use process improvement to deliver more, better or faster in their community.
Most foundation employees have done process improvement. Perhaps you have questioned if and how work should be done. Perhaps you have been part of a team that changed grantmaking steps.
Yet did the changes make a big impact? Did they save time or deliver to grantees faster? Did the changes get done on time? Or did discussions go on and on without implementation?
These results happen often. ProSci, the national change management researcher, surveyed 150 process improvement projects. They found the majority of process improvement projects failed. These projects failed to get the expected results or failed to complete on time or at all.
Only the minority of surveyed process improvement projects succeeded. These successful projects used proven process improvement steps to get the results they needed on time and on budget. You can too.
Process improvement proven at community and private foundations
Process improvement success starts with understanding some core process improvement concepts:
The first concept is that we each use steps to get work done. For example, most people have steps to get that first great cup of coffee in the morning. Perhaps the first step is getting the ground coffee beans out of the cupboard. Then putting them into the coffee maker and so forth.
Whether it is a great cup of coffee or any other desired outcome, the logic is the same. We take steps to get desired outcomes.
Concept 1: Work has steps to accomplish a needed outcome. These steps are a process.
Steps 1 + Step 2 + Step 3 = Outcome
Every foundation has processes. And each process has steps to accomplish an outcome. Here is a simplified foundation grants process:
Approve grant + Enter + Issue check = Accurate, timely grant payment
Concept 2: The steps of a process determine the outcome.
Is that first cup of coffee dependent on the steps you took to make it happen? The type and amount of coffee used? The brewing time? What is added? We get to be experts at good coffee by taking the steps to achieve the outcome we need.
The same concept is true with community foundation processes. The steps of work determine how fast, accurate, complete that work is done. That relationship between the steps (your processes) and your outcomes is important. Dr. Edward Deming, the father of quality systems, thought about processes as systems to do work. Dr. Deming said: “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.”
Concept 3: Improve the process to improve the outcome.
Sometimes we want to get a different outcome or results. Perhaps stronger coffee for Monday morning. To get that different outcome on Monday, we change the steps or the process we do to get the coffee. Perhaps different beans, longer brewing time or less creamer. We change or improve the coffeemaking process to get a different or better outcome.
The same is true with foundation outcomes. Perhaps the foundation needs to recapture and reposition time to serve donors or the community. Or the foundation needs to create completely error free results. Or get gifts or grants recorded in real-time. Improving the foundation’s processes can help the foundation achieve all of these improved outcomes.
Concept 4: Use process improvement proven in your industry.
Process improvement has been around for over 50 years. Yet process improvement is not a one size fits all. The concepts that work in making coffee, manufacturing or even for public companies may not help improve community foundations processes.
Foundation process improvement focuses on getting the results foundations need with the approach and tools that work in that industry. For example, foundation process improvement includes improving the steps, tools and business rules of foundation processes. Including all 3 of these elements increases the impact the team can achieve.
Successful foundation process improvement achieves impressive outcomes
With these 4 key elements in mind, what does foundation process improvement help achieve? In my work with community foundations, here are the results foundations have achieved through proven process improvement:
• Recaptured over 4,000 work hours.
• Error free for 3 years.
• Existing technology is fully implemented.
• Deliver to customers in half the time.
Are any of these outcomes interesting to your foundation? Then check out the companion blog article here: 3 Keys to Avoid Process Improvement Project Failure.
Whether it’s having that great cup of coffee you look forward to each morning, or improving your foundation’s impact, having the right processes in place achieves the desired outcome. And when your team has the right process improvement resources and skills, you can achieve great outcomes.
Lee Kuntz is an expert at helping foundation teams build their process muscle and successfully improve process and outcomes. Your team can succeed too. Contact Lee to learn more.