By SURESH MORYA, PROJECT LEAD and GREG THISTLETHWAITE, HEAD OF TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT.

When it comes to motivation, many employees lack one fundamental ingredient in their jobs, say authors Martin, Goldstein and Cialdini in their book, The Small Big. They have lost track of the significance and meaningfulness of their jobs.

There are huge benefits in highlighting the purpose of someone's job.

When employees understand the processes that they are integral to, and the interdependence that exists between them and others, they are more willing to participate in identifying and implementing changes.

Medium and large organisations typically have well over 100 processes. In most cases, these processes have not been consciously designed but had evolved over time. This is especially true when processes span multiple individuals and departments.

Whilst individual employees may strive to complete their tasks to their best abilities, they may not understand how their task affects the outcomes of the entire process. When companies struggle to remain competitive, especially in situations that require rapid turnarounds (for example, fulfilling an order on time in full, or addressing a customer complaint), it’s usually caused by inefficient and overly complex processes.

The best way to fix these problems is to do it in partnership with the people that work within the processes.

Connecting employees with processes

Almost all Renoir engagements include process improvement initiatives. Some of the key things we’ve undertaken include:

  • Initiating cross-functional and multi hierarchy participation – from the shop floor to the head of departments across all functions from the start to the end of the process.
  • Training employees to appraise the effectiveness of a process.
  • Exposing employees via job rotations to other functional parts of the process.
  • Examining processes in detail, down to every step and every document involved.
  • Identifying critical issues in every step of a process.
  • Performing root cause analysis to understand sources of problems.
  • Identifying procedural changes to improve performance.
  • Improving input and processing measures to drive better management of outputs.
  • Digitisating and automating processes where applicable.
  • Facilitating on-the-job coaching to drive new practices and obtain tangible performance improvements.

Unfortunately, process complexity has increased due to changes brought about by the pandemic.

Many teams are now distributed, with reduced access to managerial guidance. As a result, it takes more time and effort to find information.

If employees lack process awareness, they may not understand the impact their work has on others – a classic example being poor prioritisation and excessive delays as new and different process hand-offs are involved.

With an understanding of the high-level process, it is easier to redesign and/or redeploy tasks to suit changing circumstances, leading to reduced work disruption, and smoother transitions.

Root out inefficiencies

We start our engagements by establishing an overview of how things are – whether it is a factory, a hospital, a sales team, or an administrative area. We observe how separate elements interact and build a full picture of the organisation’s overall processes by asking questions such as:

  • How do employees and departments function together?
  • How efficiently are tasks performed?
  • Is there anyone in the company who knows the end-to-end process fully and can spot when and where issues are occurring?

It is often challenging to discover the answers to these questions. Let us look at each question in detail.

1. How do employees and departments function together?

We find out what parties are involved in a process and how they communicate across departments. We ask: what is not working?

Perhaps the problem stems from a step that has been obsolete for years but is still being done regardless. Or is there a step being duplicated by two departments?

Is the process taking too long as an approval involves six people at the head office? Is a task being handled by three different employees, all of whom are doing it differently?

Identifying the optimum organisation structure to support a process is much more important than most people realise – excessive handoffs between individuals, between hierarchies and between departments is a key driver of unnecessary process complexity.

2. How efficiently are tasks performed?

Process value addition only occurs when a process step is operational in nature, such as the machining of a part, or creation, combination, and manipulation of data.

In a perfect world, there should be no steps that are inspection related. Things will be done right at the first attempt. In a perfect world, Work in Progress (WIP) or Information in Progress (IIP) is kept to a minimum and physical or information inventory (duplication of data) will be low. There will also be no delays between processing steps.

But as we know, we don’t live in a perfect world. There will always be inefficiencies.

3. Is there anyone in the company who knows the end-to-end process fully and can spot when and where issues are occurring?

Often, processes are segmented, and employees are often only focused on excelling at their own tasks, ignoring the bigger picture.

Take for example the batching and sequencing of work. Should an employee tend to a task once a day or once a week? Does the employee know which activity is of the highest priority?

Whilst work planning is commonplace in manufacturing, it is largely unheard of in business processes.

Gaining clarity

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution underway, we are seeing a major transformation in the way people work. This is driven by global high-speed internet connectivity, omnipresent data in the cloud and cheap, scalable digital applications.

Process mapping and reengineering may seem “old hat” but it is still a major problem. If you configure inefficient processes digitally, they will still be inefficient. And despite the hype of artificial intelligence, human intelligence is still required to ensure that processes deliver goods or services as expected.

Renoir’s Focus Process® helps clients gain unprecedented insights into an organisation’s end-to-end process. And together, we evaluate what works and what does not and how best to control performance.

Through these sessions, people gain a new clarity about what their contribution means and the role they have to play in addressing inefficiency and complexity. And across departments, we see collaborations that generates even more ideas for improvement.

Ultimately, when employees are mobilised to radically improve their ways of working, the effects go beyond just better results. They are more motivated to seek out even further improvements.