Process Improvement

by Rus Slater

Before you start mapping

Before you actually get going, you need to make sure that everyone understands whether you are mapping ‘as is’ or ‘should be’.

In most organisations, there is the ‘official way’ things should be done and ‘the way we actually do them if we actually want to get anything done this century’...

Tip

People often work a shortcut process in order to cut out delay and bureaucracy. This seems to be sensible; however, they don’t try to formally get this ‘as is’ process recognised (as ‘should be’), because they fear management delay to the changes or even criticism of the change.

When there is an accident, a problem or a complaint, because people are not using the ‘should be’ process, they can be held culpable. (Even without assessment of whether the laid-down process would have prevented the issue). This is most prevalent in cases of Health and Safety or unfair discrimination.

Example

The ‘should be’ process

An IT consultancy had a process for setting up for new hires: after a job offer was accepted, this process required authorisation forms to be signed by a director and sent to HR and Facilities to ensure that the individual was added to the payroll and allocated a desk. Once the desk had been allocated, more forms were then sent from Facilities to IT to get networking cabling installed/checked and provide IT hardware and software appropriate to the job the new hire was coming to do. Once the forms arrived in IT, they were to be prioritised and added to the ‘to do’ list and budgets were allocated.

The problem was that there were too many people involved in the chain and they were from various departments with other, competing priorities. However, IT consultancy is a fast-moving business and often new hires arrived less than 10 days after a job offer.

‘As is’

What actually used to happen was that as soon as an offer was accepted, the hiring manager would phone Tom in IT and Tom, who focused on his internal customer, would get straight on to it.

No one changed the ‘should be’ because everyone got by on the ‘as is’, until...

There came a time when Tom was on holiday. A manager, finding that his new hire had arrived but that there was no PC for the guy to use, went to Toys R Us and bought a new PC over the counter on his company credit card!

Both the facilities and finance departments were livid that the ‘proper process’ hadn’t been followed. The manager with the credit card bill got a roasting, but he pushed back and it ended up as a board level issue!

‘Should be’ processes are the ones that are usually found in the standard operating procedures, quality manuals, company policies, employee handbooks, Health and Safety guidelines, procedures manuals and so on.

As long as we all understand whether we are looking at an ‘as is’ process map or a ‘should be’ process map, we can continue.

Tip

Where we have existing processes, especially ones that cross departmental boundaries and ones that are already described in a quality manual, procedures manual, set of standard operating procedures or something similar, it is often best to map both ‘as is’ and ‘should be’ so that we can compare the two and question the differences.

Now we are ready to start the mapping our process.