See the Possibilities for Your Process Improvement Efforts
July 3, 2019
The following blog post was written by c. myers and originally published by CUES on June 3, 2019.
Process improvement is all about looking at the things we do from a new point of view. Usually we’re looking at things that have been done the same way for a long time. It’s not always easy to see the possibilities, which is why approaching process improvement with an open mind is so important. Here are six strategies for broadening your perspective.
1. Get the Right People in the Room
A top-down approach is less effective than having the people who do the process—managers, business owners, and others—working together. The best way to uncover more opportunities and minimize siloed-thinking is to have many open minds collaborating to create better processes.
2. Set Clear Objectives but Make Space for New Ideas
It is important to set clear objectives. For example, if the goal is to make the process faster, be clear about what that means (i.e., faster for the member, the employee or system access) and why it’s important. Clear objectives will drive better decision-making during process improvement. At the same time, keep an open mind about what could be discovered along the way. Finding unexpected opportunities for improvement is common.
3. Look at the Process from Multiple Angles
It’s important to not limit the possibilities for the process you’re trying to improve (unless there is a specific reason to do so). For example, a process improvement team might be focused on software use. But only focusing on software could miss the fact that employees are not consistently having the right conversations with members. Common areas that should be addressed include system usage, employee interactions, steps members are asked to take, and steps employees take (outside of the system).
4. Create Ideal Processes Ahead of New Systems
Process improvement can also be an excellent tool for getting the most out of a new system before it is in place. Mapping how stakeholders want the process to work can help enormously with vendor selection and making sure the desired capabilities are well-defined before vendor demos highlight specific features. Mapping the process before system implementation can also help by using the new process requirements to drive system configuration, rather than simply replicating configuration for the old process.
5. Open Your Mind to the Trade-Offs of Decisions
Look at all sides of each decision to evaluate what is being gained and lost in terms of convenience, safety, ease, cost and relevance. For example, a decision to keep an inferior system in place doesn’t just save money; there is likely a trade-off for poorer member experience. A decision that requires members to provide more documentation than the competition doesn’t only reduce fraud; members may perceive the credit union as difficult to deal with and this could reduce its relevance. Sometimes decisions are driven by an inaccurate belief that regulations are moving the steps within a process. Work to clearly differentiate what is actually required by regulation, policies, and business rules and practices. Keep in mind that policies and business rules and practices are not set in stone and can be changed.
6. Try Thinking in Terms of a Total Revamp
Give yourself permission to think beyond incremental changes. Even if you don’t ultimately choose to revolutionize the process, serious consideration of very different approaches can provide fresh perspectives and new ideas. Perhaps more profound changes could be implemented later. This isn’t about making rash decisions but stretching everyone’s thinking to potentially reap bigger gains.
Organizations that undertake process improvement with an open mindset find that they uncover more opportunities, gain more efficiencies, get more buy-in, and create a better member and employee experience. Intentionally fostering an open-minded approach leads to a truly fresh point of view, which is a key ingredient for successful process improvement.