There are many different definitions of process revision and continuous improvement. First of all, a business process is any series of activities that allows you to do a task in your company, beginning with a particular input and finishing with a particular output. The revision of these processes is usually a formal activity that involves monitoring and analyzing every step in detail. In order to work effectively, it should take place within a culture of continuous improvement, a formal and continuous consideration about how to do things better. The revision of individual processes is the first step to achieve the commercial goals that you achieve when your company works in a culture always looking for improvements.
If your company is similar to most organizations, you'll definitely find at least one process that isn't working as it should. Actually, if we're honest, most of us can identify more than one. For some reason, many companies just put up with it. But... why? Processes cause low productivity, delays, and, many times, a waste of money. On the contrary, carrying out your processes correctly and keeping them working, saves time and other resources, puts your customers first, encourages innovation and makes your employees happier. The secret? The digital revolution took place to help you do that.
Many times, part of the problem is the fact that people feel intimidated by the challenge that continuous improvement represents. Commercial processes can be very tricky. The tools to improve them usually seem to be a big obstacle for most companies; once you have analyzed a process, how do you keep revising, improving, innovating, and delivering daily tasks?
To sum up, it shouldn't be this difficult. You should keep in mind that most organizations have all, or almost all, the right areas but they may be not well organized. That's why we're here to help you.
Then, continuous improvement is a continuous approach (forgive the repetition) in the long term to improve processes, products and services.
What's the goal of continuous improvement?
In general, among the goals of continuous improvement we can find:
- An increase in efficiency
- An increase in quality
- A decrease in costs
Companies that implement continuous improvement achieve this by making small improvements (gradual) throughout time.
As most changes are small, employees and managers don't resist implementing them, which is very important for people that wish:
- To get results quickly
- To show tolerance to changes
- To create a more agile improvement project
- To get executives on board with the expected results
- To create a culture of improvement in the company
5 vital aspects for an improvement to be produced
- Improvement is based on small changes, that can be implemented immediately.
- Every employee has to make his/her contribution: The employees that are part of the process need to be also part of decision-making.
- Employees need to be allowed to make improvement decisions so they will be more interested in the ideas they came up with.
- Information about changes is vital for continued success: this is more difficult in the case of larger organizations, so it's important to have a software tool that allows it.
- Improvement must be assessed: to see if it's really effective; this is another reason to use a software tool.
First steps to implement continuous improvement at your company
You should know what your business is about! Before beginning to think about how to make changes, you really need to understand what your business is about and how it works. Without knowing this, your transformation project can fail. It's difficult to improve something if you don't know:
- What's already working?
- What's not working?
- What do you need to change?
Now, how can we know what our business is about? From our point of view, the best way to understand it is to map all your processes and display them as a process map.
In a simpler way, a process map is a visual representation of the steps your company takes to transform its inputs into outputs.
Once your organization has mapped all its processes from end to end, it's easier to know where you need to make improvements. This is an activity that takes a lot of time but it's worth it.
Get your process maps organized
Once you have reached this stage, it's likely you have hundreds of process maps, so it's important to use a software tool to store these documents.
However, it's not enough just to store these maps and leave them unclassified; you need to make sure that the system you use is:
- Easy to search through: that it's easy for your employees to search for what they need, even if it's a simple term.
- Easy to use: you should make sure that the people that are going to use your "process library" can really use it.
- Regularly revised and updated: your process management system needs to be updated with the most recent information so that it's precise, consistent and reliable.