As a business owner or leader of a team, we get to work on all sorts of problems. Frankly, I've always thought that coming up with the solutions is the most fun part of what we do. Pretty regularly I've found myself looking at the process as the source of the problem. While process redesign is kind of intuitive. I've also found there is some nuance to it. So I'm going to share my go-to checklist on how to fix a broken process.
1. Define the problem in terms of the outcome.
Covey had it right when he said: "Start with an end in mind". While this isn't always good advice when it comes to a process it certainly is.
Remember a process is just part of a system. You've likely identified that you have a broken process because you aren't getting the results you want or expect from a particular part of your business. Before you go any further get very clear about what results you are looking to achieve. Is it fewer complaints? Happier customers? More revenue? higher conversions? Through measurable results define what the gap is you're trying to bridge. Example: 10 new conversions a week with a cost-per-conversion of $100 dollars per conversion.
2. Observe & Map the Process
Start from the top using a flow chart (They're way easier to use than they look) write down all the steps that are currently involved in the process. An easy trap to fall into here is to just write down what you think you know. Chances are what's actually happening is a little bit different, so go and observe the process in action. Write down all the steps you see and ask lots of questions of the person who's doing the process.
3. Get Collaborative
Commitment to the new process is as important as the quality of the new process itself. Engage the people who will be executing on the process, ask their opinion and listen to it. Chances are they'll have great ideas, but even if they don't, by genuinely listening to them they'll feel as though this new process is theirs too. Check out my article on how you can make these 1-on-1's as effective as possible.
4. A/B Test
This term was popularised in marketing but it works just as well in operations. Choose two separate groups and have them try two different processes. See which one produces closest to the results you're looking for. If neither of them does, then go back to the drawing board and try something else. Operations management professionals call it continuous improvement. I call it trial and error. If you're ever out of ideas this post on Medium has some researched backed process changes that you should try. They've identified the process changes most likely to bear fruit including giving customers control and changing the order in which tasks are completed.
5. Double Down on What Works
Once you've got something that works spread it as fast as you can. Use the people you had testing the process to teach others. Fly them there if you have to! It's really important that the people who are learning this new process hear it directly from others who have lived it. It will help make sure all the little bits of information are communicated.
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