Business process improvement (“BPI”) is a critical undertaking for all organizations seeking structure and efficiency. It’s also a way to save both time and money.
Certain companies—like tech startups—need to rapidly develop new products and services to survive. But others—like insurance or health care companies—aim to improve efficiency of existing offerings. (The latter are likely working in a Stabilizing business strategy.)
At the startups a lack of process is likely excused—if not prefered—in favor of speed and agility. But for organizations that need to improve efficiency, process is everything. This is how they avoid costly disruptions or delays.
How can you leverage business process improvement to identify gaps in your organizational structure?
What process improvement methodologies can you implement to close gaps and create more reliable systems at scale?
It’s all about implementing strategic techniques to improve your business processes.
6 business process improvement techniques
Read on for six critical business process improvement techniques that will benefit your organization, both now and in the long-term.
1. Hire people geared toward process and precision.
You want your organization to be more system-driven. The first step of the process is to hire people with a tendency for structured and precise work.
For those familiar with the 17 PI Reference Profiles, there are four used to describe individuals well-aligned with Stabilizing business strategies. Those are Operator, Guardian, Artisan, and Specialist.
- Operators are patient, relaxed, and cooperative team members that strive for consensus. They’re also reflective thinkers and informal communicators.
- Guardians are unselfish, approachable individuals that provide detailed, skill-based work. They also tend to be risk-averse, relying on facts and data to make decisions.
- Artisans are analytical thinkers and expert listeners. They enjoy working in consistent, unchanging work environments and prefer working at a steady pace.
- Specialists are known for their pragmatism and respect for authority. They provide highly-detailed work and are often relied upon to identify gaps in existing systems.
Set a Job Target™ with these profiles in mind. Then you can identify, interview, and hire candidates who are behaviorally motivated to implement and improve processes.
2. Value process-oriented employees.
Smart hiring is a crucial aspect of business process improvement and business process management (“BPM”). However, also pressing is how management interacts with existing employees.
When fostering a Stabilizing organization, it’s imperative managers acknowledge the value process-oriented employees bring. They’re essential to the business’ strategic success. Senior management must communicate this—otherwise they might not realize on their own.
3. Tailor management style to employees’ unique needs and preferences.
Managers should tailor their leadership style to ensure employees’ needs are being properly met.
When managers accommodate the unique needs and preferences of employees, it drives engagement and leads to peak performance.
If a manager leads a team of detail-oriented individuals, that team likely relies on data to process new information. If the manager prefers to eschew data and make decisions at a more macro level, this could lead to conflict.
In this case, the manager should make a conscious effort to meet their direct reports halfway. For example, they can provide additional data when weighing big decisions, or take extra time to run through a recent change.
In other words, non process-oriented leaders must “flex” their own behaviors to provide the right environment for these employees to thrive.
Other ways to accommodate your process-oriented employees include:
- Giving balanced feedback and avoiding direct criticism
- Protecting teams from constant change
- Creating a steady work environment as much as possible
- Providing clear strategic direction
- Communicating using facts and data
4. Ensure business-process advocates have a seat at the strategic table.
Pursuing business process improvement initiatives can be challenging. This is because senior leadership tends to be comprised of more Exploring Reference Profiles—including Captains, Mavericks, and Venturers. Thus, executives may not be behaviorally inclined to promote the idea of process mapping and optimizing existing operations.
It’s therefore important that you make sure business-process advocates have a seat at the strategic table. Check to see if Stabilizing profiles are represented on leadership teams responsible for fulfilling Stabilizing initiatives. If not, consider promoting someone who embodies those ideals to lead these initiatives. Or, encourage non-Stabilizing executives to sponsor these initiatives during project management to give them the attention they deserve.
At the end of the day, remember that Stabilizing profiles don’t exhibit the same level of extraversion as other profiles. Give these individuals the microphone—and take care to ensure their goals are properly discussed.
5. Foster a culture that celebrates business process improvement.
When looking to establish a Stabilizing organization, it’s important to foster a culture that matches your business strategy. That means celebrating common behaviors associated with creating structure and improving existing processes.
Consider two of the core tenets of a Stabilizing organization: reliability and scalability. Next time a team member creates something that serves to further those goals, take notice. It could be a handy spreadsheet, an instructional video, or some other resource. Regardless, take time to celebrate it.
In doing so, you signal to other employees that you notice and reward this behavior—and thus increase the likelihood it’ll be repeated.
It’s also important that your culture accommodates employees’ behavioral drives and needs. If you have a department filled with Guardians, Artisans, and Operators, then enacting constant change is likely to cause anxiety—and hinder productivity. But if your organization telegraphs changes well in advance—and gives employees real time to reflect and react—you ensure you aren’t throwing them for a loop.
6. Craft an organizational structure that reflects your strategic needs.
Although some organizations may decide to 100% pursue a Stabilizing strategy, for others, it just won’t be the optimal fit. However, that isn’t to say the latter can’t make use of certain Stabilizing components.
Even the fastest tech startup needs a finance department that dots its I’s and crosses its T’s. And even if it has an innovative offering, it’ll need processes to ensure its products are reliable. What if it needs to protect its intellectual property? It’ll need an airtight legal department to do so.
The point is this: If your strategy sits squarely in different areas, see to it that your organizational structure supports that intent. If you’re in the area of agility and innovation, but need a strong finance team, make sure your employees, management, and culture fit those two different parts of the business.
This means placing more big-picture, risk-comfortable employees in Exploring areas of the organization and more risk-averse, process-heavy individuals in Stabilizing ones. It also means promoting the right leaders for these areas—and tailoring your culture to reflect the needs of these different groups.
When balancing everything from product growth to customer experience, enacting this “two-speed” model can be a novel, rewarding approach to traditional business process improvement.
Business process improvement is achievable with these steps.
Share this six-step plan with other members of leadership, and help improve your business processes. Granted, these changes won’t be felt overnight. Only through continuous improvement and refinement can you get your business on the path toward reliability, scalability, and increased profitability.