Is your process simple enough to be easily communicated, understood and adhered to?

One of the process issues we see on a regular basis is that as an organization grows, it tends to perform incremental “bolt-ons” to its existing processes rather than rethinking them as growth and circumstance warrant. Admittedly, bolting on a new set of functionalities here, or a few new sets of decisioning criteria there, seems like the easiest solution at the time.

However, the more complicated and convoluted a process gets, two things begin to happen. First, it becomes more and more difficult to communicate the process to team members. Especially new team members that don’t have a history in the organization or with past iterations of the process. Second, the lack of overall simplicity in a process runs the risk of creating confusion with the entire team. Confusion leads to misinterpretation, which creates deviations from policy – which can be costly.

Both issues lead to mistakes and misinterpretation in process execution which will certainly create delays and could cost real dollars through delayed recognition of revenue, substandard quality, compliance issues or lost business.

We recommend that all our clients review their processes every two years or whenever an external event occurs such as an acquisition, a change in market conditions, and so on. Along with evaluating and updating the workflow, creation of appropriate metrics and scaling points – the process should be evaluated for simplicity and understandability.

Once you have redesigned a process, test it out through some small pilot exercises. The exercises will help validate the workflow and will also allow you to determine if you can effectively communicate the process to both experienced and inexperienced team members. Use the simple rule of thumb that if you must explain it more than once to a group, then it may be too complicated and could use some refinement. Successful completion of the pilot exercises will give you confidence to roll out the process with limited risk.

Consider using do-it-yourself tools to create video or multimedia training for the redesigned process. If choosing this path, remember to plan and budget for the maintenance of these training materials, as they are more difficult to edit than are the traditional written manuals. The task of maintaining multimedia training materials may be tedious, but it can send it a positive message to team members, e.g., “We care about people and processes here.”

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