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April 12, 2022
15 min

Checklist: 12 Questions to make your business processes more repeatable, sustainable and scalable [2022]

Checklist: 12 Questions to make your business processes more repeatable, sustainable and scalable [2021]

We have listed below 12 questions to help you improve business processes.  Take an objective look at your current business processes and quickly identify opportunities to make them more mature.

Each “yes” is 1 point.

Doing this is usually easier if you think about a specific process rather than staying at a higher level.

Also, having done this a fair bit, it is better to have some core processes at 12 points rather than all of your processes at only about 3 points

1. Is everyone - involved in the process - able to explain what the process is about? (why, what and how?)

Why?

Too often, many stakeholders do not see the whole picture and can end up lost in the details. For instance, this can create unnecessary work as long hours can be spent doing something that is needed but could be achieved in a different and much more efficient way.

Typical next steps?

Preparing a simple one pager explaining the why, what and how. A good way to get this done rapidly is to use the SIPOC framework and then communicate using a crafted message for each population type (seniority/functions) that you need to share this to.

2. Will the process continue to deliver its benefits if the process lead(s) are removed from it today?

Why?

Processes are often relying on one or more key individuals to keep running. For instance, someone that knows the business well and in detail can quickly chase people down and get things done in a way that someone else cannot replicate easily.

Typical next steps?

Try and hand over to another person temporarily and see what happens. Then identify systemic ways to improve the process. The biggest challenge in this process improvement methodology is that we all have a tendency (to different degree of course!) to strive to be indispensable, so stakeholders may resist the idea of being replaceable.

3. Do you measure the process efficiency?

Why?

Typically, every organization will at some point define performance indicators. Too often, these are restricted to lagging indicators. Too little focus is usually given to leading indicators, such as the efficiency of a process. For example, if the process to manage inventory stock level is not happening or is late, then no wonder that there is a negative impact on those lagging KPIs. This could have been prevented fixing the process proactively.

Typical next steps?

If you do have some leading indicators already, well done. If you do not, start with basic indicators such as:

  1. Start / Completion on time
  2. Resources used
  3. Attendance rate
  4. RACI compliance

4. Is the process documented and not deprecated?

Why?

Too often, business processes stay unformal, unwritten ("in people's mind") and this poses serious challenges such as relying too much on a few key individuals.

Typical next steps?

If you have already documented this previously, make sure it is not deprecated. If you did not yet, start with basic elements such as:

  1. SIPOC Diagram
  2. Swim Lane Diagram
  3. RACI Matrix
  • Make sure to store this in a common space and display it where possible. Ideally embed the documentation within an actual tool you are using, so by just using the tool you make sure you are following the standard(s).
  • Also, don’t be too prescriptive as it will be deprecate quicker. Leave some space to empower your stakeholders to contribute as best they can without alienating them.

5. Is it clear which part(s) of the process are non-negotiable and need to happen in a specific way and which one(s) are left to the local business needs or individuals?

Why?

Focusing on getting the right balance between process prescription and agility is key.

If you want to find opportunities for scaling, then facilitate the movement of key talents and have the ability to compare work processes performance across the organization you need to strike the right balance.

Too much freedom and you do not get any benefits, too little and you alienate your best people. You will miss out on their contributions and possibly lead them to leave your team.

Typical next steps?

Take your process map and look at each and every activities that need doing and highlight clearly what is required to be done in a very specific way and what just need the output to be available.

6. Is there a clear threshold mechanisms to empower decision making at the right level and limit escalation?

Why?

Too often there are too many people involved in meetings? Why? Because if someone needs to approve something once in a while, he/she will get invited to the session.

We should not work like this!

It is far more efficient to decorrelate the two by getting a very clear take on who decides on what and the associated level of authority (watch out, it can be tricky not to make it too rigid).

Typical next steps?

Overlay onto your RACI matrix a threshold for each role in each step of your process (e.g. if adverse cost up to £10K then “manager x” can approve. If above, then “manager y” needs to approve).

Ideally this is then embedded into a workflow type escalation process so process improvement is aided by a tool rather than scattered mails and phone calls. Not only does it save time immediately, but it helps to retain information in one place.

7. Are there any consequences (positive or negative) if the process does not happen at all or not according to the standard(s)?

Why?

If you did not do what you are supposed to do and nothing has happened, then something is wrong. Maybe it was not an important task, or you have the timing wrong or it's simply that someone is missing the input.

But because you're working in a silo, no one is shouting. In that case, a mechanism to positively reinforce positive behaviors and inputs is a must.

Typical next steps?

Look at your process with the customers' eyes : what do they really need? Brainstorm with them to identify what would be a positive reinforcement loop to ensure the process gets done on time and efficiently.

8. Is everyone involved in the process able to see and understand what happened/is happening?

Why?

Too often, one needs to check mails, go into many different systems and call a few people to understand the status of things. What if things were accessible with ease and you received alerts proactively when things are at risk, before it is too late?

Typical next steps?

Identify the core step of your work processes that are useful for the different stakeholders. Put in place a process that's as automated as possible to provide visibility on what is happening in real time (e.g. workflow, dashboards, etc.).

Watch out, if it is too administrative people will not stick to it as they will lose more than they win (i.e. save time).

9. Is there a regular review of the process to identify ways to improve business processes and stay relevant to the latest business needs?

Why?

Don’t let your processes dictate what you need to do. It was probably the best way of running the business a while back when they were designed, either because of habits or tool legacy. But things change and it's essential to identify possible business improvements.

Instead, make sure the process continuously helps to structure what needs doing for the business.

Typical next steps?

Start recording all improvement ideas into a log, implement improvements and process alterations promptly.

Of course, it is much easier when you have a process engineering team to drive this exercise. If you don’t consider improvement suggestions from your team members, they will rapidly be frustrated and end up unmotivated.

10. Will the business process continue working if you replace someone with another team member (with similar skills)??

Why?

A business process is not really one until it can be done by different people and/or in different parts of the organization. Otherwise, it is describing how a specific individual is working.

Typical next steps?

Try rotating around team members so that they can discover what each other are doing.

Also, it helps to reduce the business process dependency to specific individuals, either by creating additional contributor back up or by identifying ways to change the process to be less dependant on some members.

11. Are the low value added activities of the work process automated?

Why?

Clearly we cannot automate everything. Us humans can do things machine cannot do. Of course machines can now recognize dogs, but they need a massive amount of data. When you only have scattered and ambiguous information, we are (for now) still the best.

Typical next steps?

Identify some low hanging fruit first: dashboarding, deck generation, workflow automation (signature, communication), meeting invite generation, etc.

12. What if you simply stop doing your business process, do you know who would shout at you?

Why?

It is easier to improve things when your time is not sucked away by things that do not matter…

Typical next steps?

Just stop doing it for a period in a controlled manner. Of course, don't forget to give a heads up to a few people in the organization so that people don't think it is rogue behavior!

A more elegant (or complementary!) way of doing this is to run a ECRS (Eliminate, Combine, Rearrange, Simplify) methodology.

Scoring notes

  • If you have less than 3 points :
Good news, you are at the beginning, you can only progress ! Aim for at least 6 points within 6 months.
  • If you have 3 to 6 points :
Some foundations are secured. Focus on adding at least 1 point every quarter. Your progression over the next 12 months will be incredible!
  • If you have 6 to 9 points :
Well done ! But don’t stop here, there's much more to go at! Careful, by the time you fix new points you may be losing points elsewhere!
  • More than 12 points :
Maybe it’s time to excel and go to 12? Or maybe your best bet is to focus on additional business processes that you have not assessed yet?

You don’t need to be convinced yet to get started.

You don’t need to already have well-defined processes.

Enjoy a free setup and onboarding.

No commitment.

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