For those of you who missed last week’s discussion I began to consider an alternative way to review a business and help it with a strategic review in the form of an updated SWOT. For our version, we swap the traditional internal Strengths and Weaknesses and the external Opportunities and Threats with the more practical Staffing, Workflows, Organisation and Timing areas instead. Last week’s article can be found here How to get the best out of your staff – part one
This week it’s the turn of:
Workflow – this is about assessing whether your work processes are sufficient, efficient and effective. The old adage of ‘if you fail to plan you plan to fail’ comes into play here. I shouldn’t assume every company plans, but in reality do you all? Sure you plan production, you aim to meet deadlines and targets, but do you really plan?
Frequently we go into manufacturing companies and start this very discussion – what planning do you do? More often than not, we are told ‘oh yes we plan, there was a planning meeting every day, but it lasted for hours so we canned it’. On delving into why, a common answer was because they had no ‘plan’ to the meeting, no direction and no order to what they talked about, why they talked about it and how they moved the issues forward. We introduce a basic agenda, or process as it were, of
• Review of the previous day – what went well and what went wrong
• Plan for today – materials/staffing/other
• Future requirements – materials/staffing/other
The meetings get back on track and you have introduced a means of tracking and planning and ensuring the workflows are followed.
Within any planning comes the workflow – a full review of the processes in the company. If you don’t have time for a full root and branch review can you identify and agree the key processes and break them down into their components with the mantra of ‘is it absolutely necessary to the process’? If not, can you re-engineer the process to remove an often time consuming step that has no ‘value added’ appeal?
I just love the phrase ‘well we’ve always done it this way’ coupled with the bemused face of a member of staff when you start this questioning. That’s when you know that this process is likely to be outdated, and over complicated for its modern use and it’s time to change the workflow.
I worked in a US-owned firm that brought Six Sigma into this review process, and while it’s often perceived as an overly complicated process with lots of formal tools, statistical analysis and strategies for workflow review and process improvement it has some straightforward components that anyone can use.
For example, the ‘Business Process mapping’ – the listing of every part of a process and how they link and follow through, with a resultant visual diagram which uses arrows (direction of workflow and connector), circles (start or measurement), diamonds (decision or if slanted – data), boxes (process, activity or operation), and ovals (alternative process) to see and assess the flow.
Or why not try ‘The 5 whys’ – a means of breaking down a problem. It uses the understanding that asking in five different ways is generally sufficient to get to the root cause. For this to really work though you have to follow a direct the chain of cause rather than fall into assumptions.
Or finally the basic DMAIC acronym of Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control – an updated version of the old Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle.
But please remember to engage your staff in the changes, to get their buy in and also to ensure that the final result is within their skills and abilities so you don’t de-energise them, instead of re-energising a process.
A key benefit from understanding your workflows, and improving where needed, is to gain a better understanding of the business situation and in turn your staffing requirements. It’s obvious how they link together.
So which workflow do you think needs addressing first?
Read part three of The Threedom Solutions alternative SWOT© analysis next week – the impact of Organisation – not the company itself, rather the ‘doing’ word of being organised.
For more help and advice about HR issues or employee development contact us at www.threedomsolutions.co.uk or follow us on twitter @3domSolutions