process flow diagram

5 tips for successful process reengineering

Over the years there have been many trends revolving around the Six Sigma and Lean methodologies. These methodologies can be hugely successfully in achieving improvements in processes, however too often I have seen them fail because they tend to focus on iteratively improving the existing process towards a better outcome. *I should caveat that I’m not an expert in these methods

In large organisations, working in faced paced industries, it is common for process effectiveness to deteriorate over time as requirements change, people move and knowledge is lost. This can be further exasperated by the geographical dislocation of processes and the relentless focus on cost. Often the need to make a process cheaper or more efficient is achieved by moving part of it to a low cost location.

A point is reached where there are diminished returns from offshoring and lean thinking can only improve things so far. This may be the time to consider reinventing the whole process, redesigning from the ground up. This doesn’t mean throwing away what you have – something that would generally be impractical, but in terms of thinking, start from scratch, design the right future process and then work out how you get from the present to the future. In other words, start with the end in mind.

I’m not going to write a detailed overview of how to do this – that would be a whole book. But here are my 5 tips for successful process reengineering:

1) Have a clear vision of what success looks like – Are you trying to be industry leading, or just catch up with your peers for example?

2) Find an evangelist sponsor – someone who will not just put their name to the work, but will remove barriers, promote the cause, provide passion and energy

3) Challenge assumptions – Get back to basics, if there isn’t a concrete reason to do something in the process, don’t do it.

4) Be transparent – Get all our output printed and stuck on walls, show it to people, ask for input and ideas. If you can, get yourself a war room and use it for all your meetings, it’s amazing how often you will end up refering to something on the wall and save a lot of time trying to explain something when it’s right there in from of you.

5) Engage the right people – The best way to achieve nothing is to have people in the room who have no power or interest in changing things. Ensure you have people involved who have been empowered to make, or at least suggest, changes to the process, understand the overall vision and are bought into achieving that vision.

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