Business Process Analysis – a waste of time?

Many organisations work within a cycle of continuous improvement – monitoring current processes, identifying areas for improvement, planning an improvement and implementing the improved process.

Plan-Do-Check-Act CycleWe examine the processes that exist in our businesses and make decisions on how they need to be improved. This is the cycle of continuous improvement.

At least, that’s how it is in theory.

In reality, the method implemented for process improvement varies from one organisation to another. The motivations for organisations to undertake process improvement initiatives also varies. Many organisations work on a purely reactive basis, addressing process related issues only once they become a significant problem.

Depending on where you sit within an organisation, the level of maturity of the organisation (more on this in a future post), and what resources are available, quite often the process looks more like this:
– identifying an area/need for improvement;
– understanding the process;
– gathering enough ammunition to justify resources and/or authorise change;
– defining the improved process;
– implementing the improved process;
– monitoring the improved process.

Some of these steps may be broken down further.

All of the above steps require a varying degree of effort. Which of the above areas takes the greatest effort? Quite often the first steps of identifying, understanding and justifying take the most effort. Once a process is truly understood, improvements are often obvious. Unfortunately we often spend an inordinate amount of time analysing before we get to the point of improving.

How much do we need to know to know that we know enough to change?

Recently I saw a home renovation program on tv where the host was looking to justify the repairs to some windows. The window frames were crumbling and some panes of glass were badly cracked. The physical decay was such that it created poor sealing, contributing to drafts. Yet, a smoke machine was brought in to demonstrate just how extensive the draft was through the windows.

If you have obvious cracks in a business process, how much investigation do you really need to do to prove that the problem is big enough to address? Are you just procrastinating about fixing the obvious?

Has this ever happened in your organisation?

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