Continuous process improvement methods have moved from the manufacturing floor to the office as businesses seek to improve quality, cycle time and costs across the organization. When someone says they want to streamline or speed up operations, the next thought is the need to totally revamp operations or bring in a costly consultant. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. Here are three easy ways to improve office processes.
Have Standard Operating Procedures
One of the simplest ways to improve office processes is to have simple, straightforward and standard operating procedures. Another issue to consider is communicating these standard operating procedures. You need to make sure everyone – not just new hires – knows what the standard, approved procedure for tasks related to their job is. Don’t forget to have a standard process for changing procedures and communicating them so that everyone knows what the latest accepted way of doing something is. This eliminates mistakes caused by someone doing it the old way when you changed it to solve some other problem.
Map It Out
It is one thing to have a standard operating procedure. It is another to viscerally understand the procedure. The solution to this dilemma is to map all of your commonly used standard operating procedures. One benefit of this is that you can see the standard workflow and understand what each step does. You could decide to invest in management software, such as the Kanban Software Tool to make this process easier, as Kanban allows you to map out your processes and immediately identify which processes you’d want to simplify.
You can also use a tool to map your methods of handling exceptions and errors. When you collect that information along with statistics, you can see how often the standard process delivers things correctly and plan better ways to handle issues that aren’t part of the standard process.
Make Quality a Priority
Many business metrics tend to focus on volume or speed. How many customers did you handle today? How many orders did we ship out? What was the average time per call? How quickly did you assemble that product? One way to improve office processes is to add quality metrics to the scorecard.
You could use a formal process improvement methodology like Six Sigma, complete with data collection at every step of the process and focused projects to bring defects down to nearly zero. Or you could adopt a strategy like 5S, seeking to have a clean workplace along with work stations designed so that there’s a place for everything and everything in its place. 5S also emphasizes first in, first out processing, standard procedures, and designing a minimal or lean workflow. Or you could set up quality circles, asking employees how they would change things to reduce mistakes and defects.
If things are chaotic, it really doesn’t matter so much which process improvement methodology that you adopt but that you bring order to the operations and then start to make it better using some sort of strategy.
If you want to improve office processes, you need to understand what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. You also have to decide that better means delivered right the first time as well as quickly and cheaply.