Process Excellence for SMEs

Why process excellence is the most important thing you never knew you need to know

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Ian Hawkins

‘Process’ is the stuff you do at work each day – the stuff you get paid for. If you’re a business owner or manager, you’ll be all too aware that process isn’t all that happens in a working day.

What is process excellence?  

We call it PEX, and it’s about making sure the processes are all working as efficiently as possible. Ever have one of those days where everything falls into place, and by lunchtime you’ve got a list of achievements and a column of ticks on the ‘to do’ list? We think every day should be like that.  

Most of the people who run businesses aren’t specifically trained in how to do so – they learn as they go. But PEX isn’t something you need an MBA for - you are engaged with PEX every time you see something that’s not working and put it right. All we’re offering is a set of tools for doing that process for everyone in your organisation.  

So where do you start? 

Process Excellence Strategy 

Let’s be really clear about what the benefits to your business could be. What do you want PEX to deliver? 

  • Efficiency – if you’re employing someone by the hour and it takes them twice as long as it should to complete a task, you should look at increasing efficiency. Increased efficiency means that you can serve more customers in the same amount of time. If you find that you’re often working late into the night on your business, you may be the one who needs to streamline your processes. Efficiency has been the driving force of the most successful businesses from Ford to Microsoft.

SEE ALSO: A guide to robotic process automation (RPA) 

  •  Profit – if you’re wasting time, you’re wasting money. PEX can help drive up profits because there is less wastage of time and materials. Profit comes from adding value to the customer – so if you’re doing something that doesn’t add value, you’re hurting your bottom line.

  • Scale – if you want to grow your business, you need to get the processes worked out. Think about fast food chains which have a particular way of doing something. This enables them to open new outlets quickly, and to ensure consistency across the brand. If you’re building the next McDonald’s, take a leaf from their book and map out every process with precision. 

  •  Planning – When you know what you want to achieve, you can take steps to achieve it. There are consultants who can come into your business and help streamline operations, or you can start by asking the right questions of your people and seeing where the waste is.  

SEE ALSO: 5 factors limiting process improvement success 

  • Should one person be doing what two people are currently doing?
  •  Are the right people with the right skills in the right jobs?
  • Are there bottlenecks and sticking points in the process? 
  • Could a computer manage a task more efficiently than a human? 

There are a range of products on the market that will help you migrate some tasks to a computer: artificial intelligence and machine learning are getting more user friendly and finding more applications in businesses of all sizes. This could be as simple as a mobile phone app that tracks expenses, or a full-blown RPA system installed in your headquarters.

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5 steps to Making process improvements (that stick)

As well as deciding what you’re going to do, decide how to roll out your new process. It’s important that whatever you do, the changes stick.

  1.  Sometimes it’s best to start small: putting in a change that will make a big difference in improving someone’s working day (for example by taking a process they hate and making it much easier, or giving it to someone who enjoys it) will build trust in the changes you are proposing.

  2. Make sure that the benefits are clear to all involved: if someone says they don’t understand why they are doing something, you need to make sure they understand the objectives.

  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. If people know why something is happening, they will feel more engaged with the process and help to make it happen. If there are successes, share them. If there are problems, find out why things are moving slowly. Communication is a two way street: listening to your people during a change will give you valuable insight into how they are invested in the company and their work.

  4. Review with individuals and teams. Find out what motivates people and use that as leverage. Remember, it’s almost always better to have dissenters inside the tent, contributing their ideas, than it is to isolate them from the decision making process.

Don’t manage – lead

Managers can make things happen, but a leader is the one who takes a business in a particular organisation. The processes you have put in place should enable everyone in the organisation to understand the function they fulfil in the whole. Everyone should feel that even if they are a small cog, they are still a vital part of the machinery as a whole. Here’s an article from Harvard Business Review that’s especially useful for SME business owners: Yes, it’s a metaphor.

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Whether you’re looking for the latest developments in AI, or some common sense tips on making your business just that little bit more efficient, PEX Network is your gateway to the best advice in the business, from people who are speaking from experience in organisations of every size, in every sector. Join up – and join them.

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