Whether you work for a large organization or a young start-up you often hear words such as we need to follow process, we need to improve our processes. At the moment I seem to be hearing this on all fronts in my life whether it’s at work at a software company or whether I am dealing with a problem I have with a service provider or simply in parts of the on-going renovation process in my own home. This barrage of processes and complaints about processes or lack thereof has spurred me to write this post, partly to alleviate the frustration by giving an impression to myself that I’m doing something about it, even though in most cases I have no say about the processes in the organisations involved and partly in the hopes that sharing my perspective, thoughts and experience on this topic might provide some insight to some company owners to start implementing the changes and reviews that are necessary to their processes.
Processes are alive. Just as we refer to a language as alive and constantly evolving through use by different people with different backgrounds and understanding so are processes. As such processes are subject to change due to the nature of their users. Some changes are brought about naturally through the use and skill set of a user while others are enforced by management.
As an example, we can consider a scenario where process states that customer support are requested to send a follow up email to clients when they have not heard back from them in a while. Upon review of this process, management may decide to improve this process by defining ‘in a while’ and specifying that this is to mean 10 days.
Natural improvement happens when the support agent drafts out a template which is concise, respectful and in short perfect for the job, which the agent starts using. After a while the agent’s colleagues start adopting this template which naturally becomes a part of the process.
Process change may also arise out of questions posed by the process users. In the above scenario an agent may ask, ‘when saying 10 days are we referring to 10 business days or are weekends and public holidays included in the count? ‘
All changes mentioned in the above scenario are good changes which benefit the overall process. However for the process to be maintained over the months and years through common problems faced by companies nowadays, such as staff turnover and knowledge drain, further action is required. Every change, no matter how small or natural in occurrence must be documented and clearly communicated.
At times documentation and communication are not enough. We live in world in which we are hounded by information, constantly communicating, whether in person, on-line, in-print etc… At times this barrage of information results in important communications to slip through the net or simply be ignored, as something of higher priority at the time catches our attention. So what can one do to ensure that processes which have been documented and communicated are followed?
There are a number of options, however since this post is turning out to be unusually long I shall be tackling the 2 most efficient ones in my next post. If you have found the above interesting, be sure to follow this space for more insights on business processes.
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