Process Improvement Assessment Implemented as a Consultant Manager
 
 

Process Improvement Assessment Implemented as a  Consultant Manager


 

Process improvement continues to be an important area for improvement organizations so let's get started.

INTRODUCTION

What is a process improvement? That is something the consultant should be prepared to explain to clients. A working definition of the term includes that a process improvement occurs when process owners take actions to improve business processes to meet objectives such a increasing profits, improving quality, and reducing costs.

This typically involves identifying and analyzing current processes and areas for improvement. If quality is an issue we can use a definition of quality from the International Standards Organization (ISO) as meeting customer requirements.

Process improvement can apply to any organization including for profit and non profit organizations. The goal is to reduce waste and variation in processes. It can be a tool for gradual improvement in business. It can also be an area where the consultant can help.

The consultant can explain how business process improvement works. Here is an overview of steps involved.

1.    Define the goals of an organization

2.    Determine the customers of an organization

3.    Align processes to meet organizational goals

In a more specific level, business process improvement typically uses these steps.

1.    select the team and leader

2.    complete training

3.    interview

4.    document

5.    review

6.    complete problem analysis

LET'S LOOK AT A TYPICAL CYCLE – HOW TO

A consultant can advise on following these steps to an effective and efficient cycle for business process improvement. This can help an organization to keep up with competitors and new and emerging technologies. Regular business process improvements should be done on a continuous and regular basis. The areas where you can conduct improvement include IT, customer satisfaction, and employee training.

Identify the Need for Change

This first step lays the foundation for success in making an improvement. A way to look at areas for improvement is to complete a process audit. This audit should look at current issues, problems, and risks. Once you have an audit report you can prioritize areas for improvement.

Analyze A Current Process

During this second step you pick one process to improve. Begin by analyzing the procedure you now use. Fully understand the current situation. Know what in the process is not ideal. Look at roadblocks. Which part of the process is a bottleneck and causing delays. What parts of the process cause a problem with quality. 

Get Support and Commitment

During this third step you get commitment from senior management. Future success depends on this commitment. You must present to management clearly the need for change and its positive impact. Management must understand and agree to the plan. Change could involve time and resources so management approval is required.

Develop a Strategy for Improvement

This fourth step involves developing the strategy and recommendations for improvement. Indicate what is wrong with the process now and how the improvement will help with what is wrong. Your objectives must be realistic, time sensitive, and measurable.

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS FOR YOU TO NOTE

Consultants can provide information about the roles involved in process improvement as they typically include the business leader, process owner, operations manager, and process operator. Each of these should be involved in the PDCA process of Plan-Do-Check-Act. Business leaders create plans and must be involved for process improvements to happen.

Here are more key considerations that a consultant can use as a checklist when advising a client.

1.    Keep the focus on the customer.

2.    Keep results measureable.

3.    Understand the process owners.

A customer focus is important. This is how you achieve quality in meeting customer needs and customer satisfaction. When you look at redesigning a process keep the customer in mind.

When keeping results measurable you can stress as a consultant the importance of benchmarks or metrics. By benchmarks we mean measurements from other organizations such as number of units produced or customer satisfaction goals. We also mean internal measurements from within the organization. Management can also set benchmarks as goals and targets.

When understanding the process owners begin by knowing clearly who the owners are. If you are to control a process, you should establish the owner and goals for success. If you set targets for success and failure you can now determine if you are meeting these objectively. As an example, your goal could be a customer satisfaction rate of 75%.

 

METHODS AND HOW TO

Project management techniques can apply to business process improvement. In addition to project management, you should also look at continuous improvement. Here are the broad steps you would use as your method.

1.    Define the existing process.

2.    Identify areas for improvement.

3.    Have process owners determine outcomes.

4.    Reorganize the process and work force to meet the outcomes.

5.    Deal with resistance from managers who feel threatened.

6.    Deal with the labor force who feel threatened as in an organization with continuous change ideally you will not rely on lay offs.

Consultants can suggest incremental change as an effective technique. Here are the steps involved.

1.    Pick a small process to improve.

2.    Set a short time frame.

3.    Determine resources needed.

4.    Involve management and stakeholders.

Here is another approach the consultant can suggest. Remember to explain that an organization must have good processes,

1.    Identify the process to improve.

2.    Develop an objective. You can focus on elements such as cycle time, customer service, productivity, quality, or cost.

3.    Select team members and use a cross functional approach if possible.

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4.    Document the current process using, for example, a flow chart or map.

5.    Identify areas for improvement and bottlenecks the make the process inefficient. You can look at the worker, process, and organization here.

6.    Recommend changes.

7.    Set up measurements to reflect the objectives.

8.    Implement.

The consultant can advise that the elements of a successful implementation include:

1.    Commitment from leadership and management

2.    A clear statement of the need for change

3.    A vision of how the change will help the organization

4.    A clear strategy and plan

5.    Adequate time and resources

6.    Clear communication of benefits, progress, roles, responsibilities

7.    Commitment from individuals who implement the change

8.    Effective management and execution of implementation

BENCHMARKING CAN HELP

The consultant can recommend and provide information about how benchmarking can help in the process of business process improvement.

How do we define benchmarking? Here we look at comparing your organization to others. You look at industry best practices. You can look at elements such as cost and quality. The steps to benchmarking can involve:

1.    Identify the best organizations in the industry or a related industry.

2.    Compare your results to the best organizations.

3.    Determine which processes work best.

4.    Adjust your targets and improve your processes.

5.    Plan improvements and attempt continuous improvement.

 

Use of a specific indicator can help. Here are some examples of indicators.

  • Defects

  • Cycle time

  • Productivity over time

  • Cost per unit

  • Customer satisfaction

Tools the consultant can recommend to improve and meet a benchmark include.

1.    Mission statements

2.    Customer surveys

3.    Analysis such as strength-weakness-opportunities-threats (SWOT)

4.    Performance benchmarking

5.    Best practice benchmarking

HOW TO ON BENCHMARKING

Here are a series of steps that an organization can use to complete benchmarking.

1.    Select a subject and process

2.    Identify partners and data sources

3.    Collect data and select partners

4.    Determine the gap and process differences

5.    Target performance in the future

6.    Communicate

7.    Adjust goals and implement

8.    Review and revise

Methods you can use to complete research include:

1.    Surveys

2.    Focus groups

3.    Marketing research

4.    Questionnaires

5.    Process maps

6.    Cycle time data

7.    Quality control data

8.    Data from magazines and trade associations

9.    Data from financial analysts

10. Visit best practices organizations

Advise your clients about the costs of benchmarking. This can include:

1.    Visit costs

2.    Time costs involving research and visits

3.    Database costs with information about best practices, noting that using internet resources can help cut the costs here when doing research

PRODUCT BENCHMARKING HOW TO

Consultants can advise clients that the technique of product benchmarking can be a possible approach. Here are some guidelines.

1.    Consider disassembling/examining best in class products

2.    Look at customer expectations

3.    Look at technologies available to achieve best in class products

4.    Consider outsourcing product benchmarking

GENERAL BENCHMARKING TYPES

In the most general sense benchmarking can be:

  •  Internal where you compare within an organization different teams or groups

  • External where you compare organizations within an industry or between industries

In a more specific sense you can complete:

  • Process benchmarking

  • Strategic benchmarking

  • Performance benchmarking

When looking to help a client improve processes each type of benchmarking can help. The goal is to identify and observe best practices from one or more groups and adopt and adapt these as possible for your own organization. Here are some guidelines that can help.

1.    If you are looking at how to improve costs complete activity analysis

2.    If you are looking at how to improve efficiency complete activity analysis

3.    Keep the costs of benchmarking below the costs of the expected benefit

Here are even more specific types of benchmarking you can recommend to clients.

  • Accounting benchmarking

  • Best in class benchmarking involves studying competitors or those who perform a function best

  • Communication technology benchmarking

  • Emerging technologies benchmarking

  • Financial benchmarking can include completing a financial analysis to see how you fit in with productivity and overall competitiveness

  • Functional benchmarking can include a focus on a single function

  • Energy benchmarking involves looking at energy performance data that can include organizations, buildings, green energy options, and processes

  • Information technology benchmarking

  • Investor benchmarking can include looking at alternative investment possibilities

  • Operational benchmarking can include productivity, office flow, procedures analysis, and staffing

  • Performance benchmarking can include looking at competitors by comparing what they offer in the way of products and service

  • Product benchmarking can include reverse engineering, development of new product, and creation of upgrades to existing products

  • Public sector benchmarking can involve looking at tools for innovation and improvement as these organizations look at how best to achieve quality, effectiveness, and efficiency

  • Strategic benchmarking looks at how other organizations or groups compete and can include various industries

An additional approach is to look at production and cost data. You can look at the cost level for an efficient operation and see how your organization stacks up. With this approach you can reward an efficient operation with profits.

You can also advise on the use of software to help with benchmarking. Here are some guidelines.

1.    Software can help an organization look at complex and large amounts of data.

2.    Software can help with big data analysis.

3.    Software can reduce costs as it automates data analysis.

 

HELP CLIENTS WITH PROCESS MAPPING

A consultant can help with business process improvement by helping to map current processes and advise on how to do this. This mapping includes the activities of an organization, who does what, and what standards an organization should follow. Mapping also involves determining what success means for a process. Here are some guidelines for business mapping.

1.    Map processes for the purpose of looking for improvements.

2.    Make the map or diagram detailed and clear.

3.    Take an objective and measure it as compared to the objectives of the organization.

4.    Make sure the process aligns with the values of the organization.

As you help an organization map their processes and evaluate them you are on your way to providing business process improvements. You can also point out that groups such as the International Standards Organization support quality management by taking a process approach. You should look at each process and how it relates to the total operation. You can achieve a better end result and a quality management approach.

CONCLUSION

We have looked at how a consultant can help an organization improve their processes. Some of the topics we looked at included process improvement cycles, benchmarking, and process mapping and how a consultant can help a client in these areas.

 
 
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