There will come a time where our processes will be extended and stretched out to the point where, inevitably, the employees involved with them will come to us and state that they need help.
This help is usually requested in the form of a new hire.
As an effective leader, part of our role is to ensure that the team we support has all of the resources necessary to perform at their best. We do this by removing obstacles that prevent them from doing great work, and look for areas of improvement or efficiency whenever possible.
A request for help, in the form of a new hire, is typically the first solution that organizations look to when teams are not able to meet current service delivery demands. It can be a daunting, costly endeavour, to bring on new team members.
Especially if we are not certain that an extra pair of hands will provide the efficiency and relief the team is seeking.
After all, we could throw a hundred pairs of hands at a poor, or outdated process, and it will still be inefficient.
The 1st thing that effective leaders do when presented with this is issue is analyze the process as it exists today, in order to identify opportunities to improve.
How do you analyze an existing process effectively?
The first step is to involve the individuals that are a part of it. Unfiltered feedback from those that manage the process, is crucial for uncovering areas of improvement.
Walking through the process with the individuals that manage it, both upstream and downstream, involves going through each step as it happens today, without trying to fix anything or suggest alternatives.
Once you have mapped out the process as it exists today, then you can move on to analyzing it.
Here are a few things to look for when analyzing the current process:
Working with the team, start to identify any steps that may have been carried over from old requirements that no longer apply to present-day activities.
For example, does your team still need to manually create a particular weekly report now that the system captures all of the information automatically? Do they still have to make hard-copies of a particular transaction that is now auto-generated and saved within the system? Or are they perhaps working on administrative tasks that no longer need to be managed now that a process upstream or downstream has been changed?
Eliminate Zero Value-Added Activities
Identify areas that are not adding value in two specific areas -internally, or for the client.
If a particular process step is adding no perceived value for the client, such as a required quarterly report, forecasting, or delivering their service on-time and in an outstanding way, then it’s time to move to analyzing it’s internal value.
The internal value created by an efficient process lies within the degree of difficulty it requires to manage or run it. If some of the tasks within a process are excessively time consuming, difficult to complete, or require approval to proceed every step of the way, it’s time to address them.
Unnecessary Human Intervention
For me, this is the number 1 way to optimize a process, and that is to leverage technology as much as possible. This is not to say that technology is meant to replace individuals, but rather as a tool so that individuals can focus on doing what they do best.
When analyzing your process, identify areas of human intervention that can be better managed by technology.
Do your employees have to go in and click one feature in order for the process to move to the next step?
Are they having to manually update fields, or edit parts of the process due to work-around solutions that technology could solve for them?
Are there parts of the system that are not functioning properly or as intended, or do updates need to be made in order to align with today’s process needs?
There are numerous ways that technology can be utilized to reduce the manual burdens of a process, which in turn can free up the valuable time and effort team members could be focusing elsewhere.
Optimizing your processes, identifying gaps, implementing automated solutions through the use of technology, and streamlining as much as you possibly can, is the first step that every leader should take when presented with a request for additional support.
Then, after everything has been addressed, if the need to hire another team member is identified, you will be able to do so confidently.