Boost Process Gain & Reduce Process Loss
We are in the age of disruption. Workforces are evolving to become a mixture of full-time and part-time employees, outsourcing, contractors, freelancers and virtual operations driven by technology. Given these rapid changes, continuous improvement has become the vital force today for mastering these disruptive forces of change. It’s the bedrock of reducing process loss and boosting process gain in the way teams execute tasks and perform. More people perform “knowledge work”, characterized by non-routine problem solving and regular use of convergent, divergent, and creative thinking, often in real time. Some estimates suggest that up to two-thirds of a knowledge worker’s day is spent on ad hoc, unstructured tasks that don’t follow standard, prescribed paths. Consequently continuous improvement has become more complex. However, five time tested practices of continuous improvement can lead to effective execution resulting in process gain vs. process loss. The Intégro equation is; Performance result of any team equals the potential of the people minus process loss (Pr = Pp – Pl). Process gain can therefore only happen when process loss is reduced. The following five practices will build a culture of continuous improvement and reduce process loss;
- Persistent Leadership – Continuous improvement is not just a cost-cutting exercise. Rather than focusing on individual projects, continuous improvement aims to produce transformational, long term results. That requires effective shared leadership. The original team vision should be kept alive and top of mind to provide critical guidance for long-term success. Team leaders must identify (a) areas where leadership contributions are needed/desired, and (b) who in the team offers, or has the potential, for making a contribution in these areas, in order to encourage and benefit from contributions other than that of the team leader.
- Facilitate Change – Real change management is necessary to change mind-sets. Real change inculcation is not fluffy or optional. It’s tangible, quantifiable and critical to driving sustainable adjustments and adoptions. Many areas can be tangibly measured such as how well a future state vision was communicated or understood, how much people buy-into that vision and their readiness to change from the current state. These measures can be translated onto a change management dashboard with green, yellow and red colours pinpointing where things are going well and where targeted efforts are needed to improve awareness, readiness or capabilities.
- Manage What You Measure – “What gets measured gets managed”, a popular and well known maxim. The obvious follow-on question is: What exactly should be measured? Applying metrics and measurements to behaviour can have profound positive effects. Consequently the link between behaviour and continuous improvement is essential. The most important areas are; (a) deliverables, (b) effectiveness, (c) interdependencies, (d) customer satisfaction and (e) individual contribution. To encourage cultural change, these metrics should also align to incentives that drive the right behaviours for continuous improvement.
- Let Information Guide the Way – Relevant information is the nutrient for effective self-organization and process improvement. Techniques to separate facts from speculation, such as effectiveness assessment, gap / cause and effect analysis, 360º surveys, customer feedback, individual contribution and interdependencies assessments are essential to boost the chances of success. The key is developing and using a consistent and repeatable approach to the process of improvement.
- Do Fewer Things Better – The creation of knowledge increases all the time due to the rapid growth of information technology. As knowledge increases though, people must specialize in narrower slices of it to achieve mastery. Consequently, for almost any given problem, more people’s contributions are required to find the best solutions. Doing it right, first time, all the time is easier when the process is simplified with shared responsibilities. Too many initiatives can prove to be counterproductive as managers and front-line employees’ attention and motivation dissipate from initiative overload.