How to re-design a process

These days all big companies are going through some sort of process transformation.

Some are into agile transformation, others into industry 4.0, simplification, etc.

In this article I’d like to expose the main things I have seen working well.

1 – Start with the end in mind

This way of thinking was popularized by Covey in his book The 7 habits of highly effective people.

Make sure that the team knows the direction you are headed. Be more specific than ‘simplifying the process’. You should be able to answer what you are looking for.

Is that a 50% faster process? Easier to use? By whom and in which scenario? How will you measure it? What does success look like? How do you know when you are done? Knowing when you are done is CRITICAL for success.

This is how you prevent overdoing something that is good enough. Knowing when to stop is also a guiding star to keep the team spirit high. Having the end in sight gives the needed push in the toughest days. Not knowing when and how the end is can be demotivating, even in engaged teams.

2 – Map what you are required to do

Map all the requirements. Not how you think requirements should be met, but how the requirements are written down. Ignore all ‘good practices’ from yore. You don’t need them now.

You need all the requirements. If something starts with ‘It is good to…’, it is most likely not a requirement and should be kept out.

Managers and product owners  are useful in this step to outline what the requirements mean in real life. In this phase, be careful and avoid mixing requirements with interpretation of requirements.

Map how other companies follow cumbersome requirements. Have it all visible and well understood by the group.

3 – For the first design, rely on experienced lean minded real users

Gather a team that covers the big user cases for your process and start drafting the new ideal process with the requirements in mind. This is a like a puzzle assembly. Make sure to have users who think ahead and have a good lean mindset. The question to answer is: for this requirement we are looking at, how would the process look if this was simple?

The result will look too idealistic and impossible to implement. Stick to it for now.

4 – Bring the managers at the end

The owners or managers of the process carry much knowledge and the history of the process. That information is not useful in the first moments.

The process manager is a good source of knowledge, but not always a good source for innovation and simplification. Consider the fact that the manager is likely co-responsible for the current process and therefore has a lot invested in it. The managers should, as a rule, be regarded and treated as members of the group and not authority voice.

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These simple four steps should be a great starting point for any improvement process. They are simple but not easy.

I hope you make good use of it.


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