Multipronged Approach to Process Improvement
May 17, 2023
3 minute read – Strategic initiatives that include process improvement as a key component are highly prevalent. Some institutions set out to use process improvement to build a more efficient organization, better customer and staff experiences, or higher loan funding ratios. In addition to improving specific processes and metrics, more and more organizations are working to create a culture of continuous process improvement so the efficiencies, experiences, and ratios they’ve achieved continue to improve into the future.
Attaining an organizational culture that is focused on ever-better processes requires more than a few isolated efforts toward process improvement. Teams that are working to establish the practices that will lead to a culture of continuous process improvement should consider consistently using a combination of the approaches below to gain the most traction, rather than a singular approach:
- Incremental Improvements – When processes need obvious tweaks, isolated improvements can be made without reviewing the entire process if vetted carefully for unintended domino effects to the upstream and downstream parts of the process. The ideas for these tweaks are often the result of someone identifying a pain point, either through the normal course of business or by polling employees for their ideas, which is a good way to uncover previously unknown process weaknesses and give employees a voice. Improvements that are suited for the quick wins approach are simple changes that are welcome or won’t invite resistance.
- Strategic Improvement – This is a more holistic approach that includes reviewing and improving an entire process from beginning to end. This is most effective as a collaborative effort that brings in people involved in all phases of the process to pool their knowledge, identify issues, design creative solutions together, and champion the resulting improvements. Viewing an entire process reveals a bigger picture that makes it easier to accomplish the objectives of the process improvement, and will often lead to more and higher impact improvements than when doing bits and pieces. This approach requires good facilitation led by in-house personnel or consultants.
- Transformative Improvement– This is a variation of the comprehensive approach that is used when truly new thinking is called for, such as when an entirely new process is being created or an existing process is opened up for a complete redesign. The team is asked for not only creativity, but altogether new ways of thinking about the process in order to meet identified objectives. Good candidates for the transformative approach are processes surrounding a new core system, to avoid projecting old thinking onto the new system. This is also an ideal approach for newly digitized processes, instead of simply adjusting the old process and missing potential gains from the new technology.
Consistent efforts and consciously choosing and using a combination of approaches as appropriate for various circumstances will improve the chances for success. It will help build a mindset where employees think about processes from new perspectives and are always looking for ways to strengthen them. When talent throughout the institution embodies this mindset, they will embrace and help drive a culture of continuous process improvement and the organization can realize all the benefits that come with it.