There is a direct, positive link between improving your processes and how motivated your employees are.
We embrace the idea of employee motivation leading to engagement, happier customers, revenue growth, and improved profitability. And there’s no shortage of methods being espoused as the way to get you there: open offices, foosball tables, hacky sack. I may have made that last one up.
Turns out–according to a recent study printed in the Journal of Organizational Change Management–gimmicky office decor has no proven benefits for your results. Just ask someone who works in an open office (or read this article).
Often, “process improvement” is thrown around as though it’s a dirty word; something associated with cost-cutting and autocratic styles of management. Not to mention, the hours spent mapping and documenting that quickly come to mind. The idea of process improvement can be a hard pill to swallow.
So how do you improve your processes simply?
Process improvement doesn’t need to happen in big leaps and bounds. It can happen incrementally–a way that I believe is far more powerful and achievable. (if you’re interested in hearing more about why incrementalism works, check out this Freakonomics podcast).
Here are five simple practices that will, in time, overhaul your processes. Along the way, it will make your employees happier and give you some pretty incredible business results:
Call a meeting with all your supervisors and managers
Include either your business unit or your whole business (depending on how big it is). The group should be smaller than 15 people to facilitate effective discussion.
Set the expectation for this weekly meeting
Follow this agenda each week:
Present a dashboard measuring metrics for 3-5 of the things you want to change and that align with your strategy. For example, if you want to change Customer Experience, Growth, and Profit, dashboard metrics for NPS, Sales, Conversions, COGS, and Revenue.
Review new discussion items, which will be submitted a few hours before the meeting.
Check in on action items from last meeting. If something has been completed cross it off the list. Then evaluate if it had it’s intended impact.
Facilitate open discussion–every week
A discussion item is anything your team thinks should be–or could be–improved in the business. Whether that’s driven by something going wrong or them having an idea for an opportunity. All discussion items go on the action register and, as a team, you decide what gets done, what doesn’t get done, and who will do it.
Depending on the point your business is at, you may need to teach your team that people don’t fail, systems do. That means the focus of this meeting is not on making people look bad or calling them out, the objective is to build systems and processes that stand up to the tests of your business.
Hold your team accountable–every time
Have the meeting every week and revisit the past week’s action items. No one gets a free pass…even you. Discuss what commitments were met, if any weren’t, and why. Work together to remove obstacles for team members and continue to refine your systems to facilitate success.
Document and communicate the change
An old boss of mine would always say, “but what about the artifacts?” What he meant by this was, when we’re gone from this company what clues are we leaving for future leaders, that will help them do their jobs?
While it’s not the sexiest part of process improvement, documentation and communication are essential. Write the process down in detail and then tell everyone who needs to know that a change has been made.
Obviously there is a lot more to change management than just these two things, but if you do nothing else, at least do this.
Watch your team’s engagement (and your business) improve
When I think back to the times that my clients, my team and I had the most wins and saw the biggest numbers (65% YOY Revenue growth, 25% improvements in net profit %) it was when we were executing this process religiously. After all, it incorporates the three essential tactics for effective execution.
This practice creates a formal feedback loop to identify broken systems and remedy them. It gives your team clear expectations and accountability, while allowing them room to try new things and present new ideas.
When employee motivation is your symptom, incremental process improvement is the prescription for lasting results. With this process, it’s a medicine that will go down easily, hit you quickly, and make your business feel like a whole new operation.