Process Improvement: Adding Value for Your Customers
Organizations of all sizes and industries can benefit from process improvement. Whether you’re a for-profit corporation, a nonprofit or a government organization, understanding your processes can help improve your operational efficiency.
Basic lean principles of process improvement include focusing on adding value for customers, identifying sources of waste and eliminating them, and ultimately implementing a new and improved process that employees can own.
Value, in this case, is defined as anything that directly contributes to the satisfaction of the customer. Waste is considered to be any activity that does not add value to your process. By reducing waste, you can reduce costs, increase quality and improve the overall experience for your customers or constituents. For most businesses, these are traditional customers. For organizations in the public sector, customers could also include taxpayers, citizens using public facilities or someone applying for a permit.
A few of the most common types of waste include:
- Over-processing – Putting additional work into a product or service that’s not necessary
- Waiting – Delay caused by waiting for information (from other coworkers, departments or other sources)
- Rework – Correcting work that’s already been completed or performing the same task multiple times
- Transportation/motion – Unnecessarily moving items or work from one group to another several times, using significant time and effort
Understand the process
In order for organizations to improve and optimize processes, it’s important to first understand how a process operates, or what the current state is. This will help all of those involved in the process understand where the process stands and what a better future state might be.
Key parts of a process improvement assessment include:
- Process Mapping – Process maps help capture the state of a process as it currently exists so you can evaluate its strengths and weaknesses based on data and identify opportunities for improvement. Including those closest to the process is important in helping identify areas of waste.
- Benchmarking – In order to identify ways to improve, you’ll need to understand how your current process compares with others across your industry.
- Value Stream Analysis – A value stream analysis will allow you to reduce or eliminate non-value-added activities from your process and can ultimately help eliminate other forms of process waste, too.
Ultimately, the goal of process mapping is to identify where problems exist and do a root cause analysis. Are there issues with a policy in place? Is there a shortage of people? Is the technology lacking? Identifying the root cause of the problem will allow you to start strategically developing solutions to guide your process to an improved future state.
While it does require an investment of both time and resources, conducting a process improvement assessment can prove to be one of the most valuable activities your organization pursues for long-term savings and increased value for customers.
Using these process improvement assessment tools, organizations can learn how to identify strengths and weaknesses of business processes and enable a range of improvement options to be designed and implemented. If you can identify and understand the causes of performance issues, you’ll be able to develop policies and procedures to reap the rewards of better performance, greater staff engagement and improved customer satisfaction.