Blog | Consulting, Intelligent Automation

The Impact of Poor Process Flow

Aug 21, 2019 | 4 min read

How easily can you identify a poor process flow? Going back a good few years there was a guy I worked with who decided to become a cheque for the day.

This guy stapled a cheque to his shirt as he wanted to understand the process flow of dispatching a refund to a customer. He stood at a desk for over an hour until he got ‘picked up’ and keyed into the system, and then being whisked down to the mailroom to wait to be bagged and couriered across to another office, in a different county, where further admin (mostly checking) took place.

The flow showed that the cheque was handled by an admin team, 2 mailrooms, and travelled a total distance of 30 miles before being collected by the postal service a day after.

The guy was discovered many weeks later in the banking system – he’s never been the same since.

So, what did this exercise conclude? He found that there was an unnecessary waste in the process that could be eradicated with relative ease, improve the flow, and get the cheque to the customer faster whilst reducing the cost.

At this point, you can be forgiven for thinking, why? Why did a company implement such a poor process flow?

Poor process flows are rife. They may not have been to begin with, but over time processes change and are not always reviewed.

To help you identify poor process flows in your organization, I have listed out 5 contributors, which in my experience, cause a lot of pain for the customer, internal and external.

Poorly defined or badly implemented Process Ownership

Where Process owners are not defined, agreed, or even known (yes, some people don’t even know that they own a process), then there is no one responsible for the management of that process.

A Process owner must be a subject matter expert and, in a position, where they know and feel how the process is performing. The Process owner can communicate effectively with other teams who influence the process (or are a recipient of the process), and they engage well to change and have a mindset for improvement and implementation.

Not documenting and reviewing your process

You’ve heard the saying “you can’t see the wood for the trees”, right? Processes are the same. If you haven’t seen the process in action or don’t have the process documented, how do you know what’s happening and how good it is? More to the point, how do the Users know what the process is to follow?

Like the ‘cheque man’, you don’t know what’s going on in a process until you walk it, observe it, measure it and document it. Then have agreed periods where the process will be reviewed to identify any natural deviation that can creep in. Having a process drawn out on a wall with a group of people huddled around plotting the value and non-value-added activity, is vital to its long-term success.

Silos

These things are bad. But what are they? A silo could be described as a couple of things:

Silos cause so many problems for the people who work the process, and the poor customer is the one that gets forgotten about.

Complexity

Some processes by the very nature are complex, but there are many processes I have reviewed that are unnecessarily complex. So, what are the contributors to a complex process?

Systems that don’t do what the process requires

Great news! You’ve won a new client.

They are different from the rest of your clients and therefore require different processes. The bad news is that you have an inflexible system that costs you millions of pounds to change. You cannot adapt the system to meet the new client requirements and therefore, your team gets creative and implements workarounds until funding becomes available for a new system.

5 years later…. The result

I hope you’ve found this read both useful and enjoyable and will help you in your digital and process improvement journey.

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