By Tim Connor, Rodeo! Performance Group, Inc.
As you look your business over to make it more competitive, it helps to break it into the basic building blocks at the heart of the business – the Core Processes. These are the laterally running groups of steps that produce the products and services you will either be renowned – or notorious – for!
A Primer on Process Improvement
Since a process is a group of steps leading to an output, approaching improvement through the Core Processes is one of the best ways to achieve systematic analysis and measurable improvement. What sorts of improvement can you seek from reviewing these processes? Actually, improvements tend to fall into a small group, easy to understand. They are…
Predictability. Bringing the process ‘under control’, so that process performance can be accurately measured and predicted. This is important because it gives a baseline against which other improvements can be measured for effectiveness. Effectively: “Did that improve the process or make it worse?”
Cycle Time Reduction. Making the process work faster, reducing the time it takes to get the quality output you (and your customer) want. This increases capacity and can increase revenue. In service processes it is a major factor in customer satisfaction.
Removal of Waste. Making the process both more efficient and more enjoyable for the staff involved in the process. It directly affects cycle time also.
Flexibility. Making the process able to effectively react to changes in customer requirements, seasonal changes in demand, and other changes. It is a major affecter of future viability of both the process and the business itself.
Core Processes in Specific Businesses
So what Core Processes can be found in a sampling of small businesses, just to give us some idea of what should be considered?
Banks. There are three main ways customers deal with banks: in the Lobby, through the Drive-Through, and Online. Each is distinctly different, and a little time looking at the steps of each will pay dividends.
Manufacturing. It goes without saying that the product being delivered had better be high quality and meet customer requirements. But how else do clients, and vendors, interact with the company? Procurement of materials from vendors, and non-purchase-related customer processes are worth study.
Universities and Schools. Because so much funding comes from government, educational entities often neglect core processes related directly to students – their core customers. Enrollment and scheduling processes are considered extremely important to such customers, but often are unwieldy and impersonal, and result in widespread dissatisfaction. Schools might take a lesson from larger banking establishments which, because of negligence in their core customer processes, are now seeing exponential growth in local competition. If the locally run private schools do it better AND provide a quality service, people will start moving their business over to them.
Small Businesses in General. From our own experience with Rodeo! clients, we’ve found that the most neglected processes within small businesses relate to future planning and internal communication with staff.
Future Planning suffers – if it’s done at all – when a business gets off the ground and begins seeing success. The owners get caught up in the day-to-day activities, and planning for future success is put off, and put off, and put off until it’s forgotten in the tyranny of the work needing doing today.
Internal Communication is most often a problem because it’s easy to communicate when the company is starting out, so no formal plan is done (it’s assumed communication will continue to be fine). As the company expands however, and more levels of supervision are added, upward communication – or hearing from employees – weakens. The employees know it, and it makes them grumpy. The owner will see it in slower processes, but the lack of input from front line staff will keep him in the dark as to the reasons for the process problems. This situation only gets worse as the company grows unless specific steps are taken to improve it.
Get the idea? Find the Core Processes for your company and you’re on your way to improvements that will increase customer and staff satisfaction AND improve your bottom line. Get going!