How to Foster Continuous Improvement

How to Foster Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement identifies opportunities to reduce waste and streamline work. Broadly speaking, it finds opportunities to execute processes more effectively and get more from less. Although this approach originated in manufacturing, continuous improvement is an essential element to countless successful companies across every conceivable vertical.

For many, there’s little doubt that fostering continuous improvement can drive sustainable, long-term results. The bigger question is often whether it be introduced effectively across all levels of their organization.

How individual staff can foster continuous Improvement

As individuals within an organization, staff can encourage and support continuous improvement while also enjoying its benefits. As individuals within an organization, staff can encourage and support continuous improvement while also enjoying its benefits.
The Kaizen process is the almost synonymous methodology for this. The term itself translates to “continuous improvement” in Japanese.
Popularised by Toyota, Kaizen focuses on making small, frequent improvements to existing processes, and from any level of an organization. Kaizen challenges stubborn “how we’ve always done things” attitudes typically found in well-established organizations.  By way of making micro-changes, Kaizen eliminates waste and silos. It aims for standardised processes in:

Quality of products, business processes and following best practices 

  • Cost of resources
  • Delivery time and non-value-added activities
  • Management of attitudes, training, flow and documentation
  • Safe working conditions

Individuals can implement the Kaizen philosophy by:

  • Using flowcharts or value stream maps to visualize current processes and identify areas of improvement.
  • Questioning the status quo in order to make meaningful changes to processes.
  • Dropping the pursuit of perfection – no methodology can ever create perfect systems or processes, but they can continuously improve conditions.
  • Celebrating your successes and those of your team members in small ways to keep everyone invested and engaged.
  • Setting aside time for team collaboration on improvement projects.

How leadership can foster continuous Process Improvement through systems & culture

Leadership have an equally important role to play as front-line staff. They can often contribute large amounts through creating a change culture.

This can be done by:

  • Empowering everyone to make small changes in their own processes. Small ideas can lead to big changes.
  • Creating an environment where employees feel free to address problems and pitch ideas. If the idea doesn’t work out, it should be iterated and improved instead of dismissed as a failure.
  • Holding continuous improvement events, providing team members with tasks to action to help new processes take hold within the organization.
While Kaizen can be highly applicable on a company-wide scale, Total Quality Management (TQM) is a methodology that leaders may wish to utilize or borrow from. Gaining popularity in the late 1980’s after the US Federal Government implemented it, TQM strives for customer satisfaction.

Organizations using TQM typically adhere to the following principles: 

  • A strategic and systematic approach should be followed.
  • Customers determine the quality level.
  • Employees are to work towards common goals with effective communication and training ensuring consistent quality.
  • Organizations should define the steps that are required in any process and monitor performance, continuously looking for ways to compete.
Diagrams are readily embraced by TQM companies, including Ishikawa diagrams, flowcharts and check sheets.

Aside from these systemic efforts, company leaders also need to make changes to culture to support continuous improvement by: 

  • Recognizing and rewarding continuous improvement successes, such as with raises, promotions, bonuses or even recognition.
  • Becoming a courageous change leader by supporting constructive disruption.
  • Leading by example, such as by being receptive to feedback or conducting regular self-assessments with vulnerability.
  • Thinking of ways to develop your employees, not just your product or service.
  • Hiring with diversity in mind in order to benefit from a broad spectrum of perspectives and ideas.

How individual staff and leadership can work together to foster continuous process improvement

A culture of continuous process improvement can only thrive if individual staff and leadership work together.

Continuous improvement should be integrated into all aspects of the business. For example it can be included in internal communication, KPIs, personal development programs and job descriptions.

A shared vision needs to be emphasised through these everyday activities, reiterating the need to strive towards a common goal.

A suggestion process should be developed so that ideas can be easily gathered and evaluated. This also includes developing a clear system to follow instead of allowing individuals to implement changes at will.

Collaboration on continuous process improvement needs to be done through empowerment, involvement and suggestions, not directions or orders.

Continuous process improvement methodologies like Kaizen and TQM can help individuals improve their own approach to work by eliminating waste, while allowing organizations to optimise involvement from people at every level.

As well as improving production and costs, continuous process improvement improves morale and satisfaction, leading to better outcomes and retention.

Small changes can make an enormous difference, with a thriving continuous improvement process setting you up for sustainable success.

This is an excerpt from Flowingly’s process guide, Creating a Culture of Process Improvement.

Take your processes to new heights with our process playbooks.

Discover the building blocks of process improvement.

How to Write Engaging Processes

How to Write Engaging Processes

Have you ever noticed that there are some processes that you can read from end-to-end, while others lose you at the first step?

Why does this happen? Well, it’s just like reading a book. Some books will grab you right from the first page, and others will end up sitting unread on your bookshelf…

Process writing is a key part of getting people engaged with processes, and with the wider process improvement journey. By engaging your audience, you will get better buy-in to process improvement and significantly increase your likelihood of organization-wide adoption.

Let’s have a look at how to write a good process.

Process improvement success = 1 part process, 1 part engagement

When we implement our process excellence programs for our customers, we spend more time on engagement than any other area. From nailing your internal communications, through to rolling out your first processes, engaging your employees throughout the journey is key to success.

The best part about creating an engaged, process-driven workforce is that not only will it improve how your processes function, it will also improve individual performance. This is because it is human nature to work towards a common, clearly-defined, better state.

A few “best practice” tips to keep in mind

Walk them through it

A well-written process should be able to walk a brand-new employee through the process step-by-step. Yes, you may have raised that purchase order in Xero a thousand times, but remember that your new employee has never done that before. So walk them through it.

Don’t overcomplicate it

Keep it nice and simple. No one is ever going to read your multi-page, 45-step guide to dealing with a customer complaint. Aim to simplify every process you write. The goal is to remove bloat, not add more.

It’s about incremental improvements

Your first take will always be a rough guide. There’s a reason most process applications have version control. Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. Map the process and then provide it to key stakeholders for feedback. Then rinse and repeat.

The keys to writing an engaging process

Focus on the common path

There will always be exceptions to the process. Don’t get hung up on the “what ifs”. Focus on what happens 90% of the time, and remove any uncommon variations to keep your process simple.

Your process should look nice and streamlined, not like a gigantic spider’s web.

Remove steps by grouping tasks

Ever seen a process which has 4 steps in a row designated to the same person or team? This is super-common, and most often it’s unnecessary. By grouping common tasks under a single step you can quickly simplify your process.

Doing this will allow you to keep your processes short and simple. Aim for a maximum of 10 steps within a process. This will make your processes much less daunting when someone accesses them for the first time.

Actions, actions, actions

Always write your processes with an action in mind. What action do you take? You onboard a new employee, you request CAPEX, you process an order.

Every process name and step name should start with a verb. Not only does this create a standardized naming convention, it also makes it clear for users what action they are meant to take.

Add rich content (as much as possible)

Everyone learns differently. Some of us like to read, some like to watch, some like to listen. It’s important that your processes cater to your entire audience. Keep people engaged by adding in rich content such as videos, images, guides, documents and hyperlinks.

Rather than having written instructions for your H&S induction, insert a video. Instead of typing out what your company welcome pack includes, take a photo and add that into the process.

Quick tip: videos don’t have to be daunting and high-production. Tools like Vidyard are great for walking someone through actions on your screen. Want to walk someone through how to raise a Purchase Order in your ERP? Use Vidyard to record your actions while you’re doing it, showing exactly where to click and what to enter.

Use workflow to deal with exceptions

When documenting a process, focus on the common path and remove exceptions. When turning that process into an automated workflow, you can add those exceptions back in. This is because a workflow will walk people down the correct path without showing them any of the myriad other routes they could have taken.

Use decisions and parallel pathways to manage this. Decision pathways will use defined logic to decide which path the process should take, whereas parallel pathways will enable multiple steps to happen at the same time.

Treat your writing like a process

When documenting your next process, follow the tips above just the same as you would with a process. Get your structure. Apply the best practice principles. Group the tasks. Name with a verb. Add in rich content. Pretty soon you’ll have a highly engaging process to share with your workforce!

Want to find out how Flowingly can help you build processes that your workforce will actually engage with? Jump on a call with one of our process specialists today.

If you’d like to learn more about how Flowingly can help you on your process improvement journey, get a demo today!

From SMB to Fortune 100

Driving digital transformation at public and private sector organizations globally.

Construction

Golden Homes manage all construction projects through Flowingly, delivering enhanced business visibility.

Enterprise

A Fortune 100 company uses Flowingly to automate 5,000+ process tasks a day for 70,000+ users globally.

Professional Services

Harper Digital utilize Flowingly to deliver exceptional customer service and automate and manage their projects.

Local Government

East Gippsland Shire Council use Flowingly to map and automate workflows, delivering a central system of record for all processes.

Education

NMIT transformed manual processes into automated workflows, delivering significant business benefits and risk reduction.

Central Government

Te Puni Kōkiri are driving a digital transformation by automating key business processes on the Flowingly platform.

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Creating a Vision for Your Process Journey

Creating a Vision for Your Process Journey

It is essential to meet evolving market and business requirements. Countless businesses embrace process mapping and automation. A strong plan allows you to make precise course corrections while minimizing disruptions. Creating a vision for process improvement doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does require a vision and good planning to be carried out properly.

Determining YourVision!

In order to get your process journey started on the right foot, you need to determine your vision. As well as looking at specific problems you’re trying to solve, think about your outcomes. Consider what you want to achieve in the long term and the experience you want to create for your customers and employees. Some questions you may want to ask yourself include:

  • What does an “effective process” look like for the company?
  • How much of a change do I want to make? 
  • What is my benchmark for successful process improvement?
While needing to address future needs, your process improvement plan also needs to meet short-term objectives, using resources available today. Being able to communicate your target state is essential to get buy-in from all team members. A clearly articulated vision will resonate with employees, shareholders and customers. It aligns your efforts and promotes understanding during the project.

Allocation of Resources

Preparing your team is the next step of a successful process improvement effort. This includes creating a team of business domain experts. If you don’t have the capacity to build an in-house team, try to find a partner or platform vendor who can be trusted to implement your company’s business improvement journey.

Process improvement is an ongoing process, but it’s still worth thinking about what can be achieved in the short term with the resources available. Recent technological advances have presented huge opportunities for competitive advantage gains from process improvement. This has put on some extra pressure, with 85% of key decision makers now feeling they have only 2 years to make significant progress on digital transformation projects, including implementing workflow automation. Fortunately an experienced process improvement partner or platform vendor should help your organization make gains in a much shorter time-frame.

The business landscape will continuously evolve. Instead of focusing on the specifics of your process think about your pace of change and the ideal outcomes.

Frameworks to Begin Process Improvement

There are a number of existing frameworks to assist you in your journey. Their structure supports and guides all levels of your organization on successfully implementing change. Pro-activity trumps reactivity in an effective business environment, so continuous innovation allows organizations to launch, learn and revise approaches. A successful process framework aims to drive a broader cultural shift within the organization, particularly in the areas of empowerment, transparency and accountability.

Some tips to consider:

  • Create the right working environment, even if your team is distributed or remote, information sharing needs to be a core component of your working environment.
  • Celebrate and recognize team successes to keep morale high.
  • Enlist help from knowledgeable and experienced staff.
By improving collaboration, you can deliver better value and reshape processes more effectively.
Often, it’s difficult to know where to begin. We propose the following approach to our clients to get them started: 
  • Gather and document process requirements
  • Map existing process
  • Automate process
  • Test process flow
  • Test against requirements
  • Address issues
  • Deliver the finished product
Once their existing process is automated, we then recommend they use their process management platform reporting to identify areas of improvement.

Implementing process improvement is necessary to ensure you’re not left behind in an age of rapid change. Creating a timeline and roadmap for following the above recommendations will help you transform your organization for the better.

This is an excerpt from Flowingly’s process guide, Creating a Culture of Process Improvement.

Take your processes to new heights with our process playbooks.

Discover the building blocks of process improvement.

The Remote Work Software Blueprint

The Remote Work Software Blueprint

There are thousands of software platforms available to help you work from home, but which are really worth your time?

We’ve compiled a list of our 9 favorite platforms for remote work, the ones we really couldn’t work without.

1. Zoom – Video Conferencing
Zoom helps your team hold video meetings easily. It’s perfect for internal and external meetings since participants simply click a link to join the call.

2. Calendly – Scheduling
Change your meeting availability on the go and allow attendees to reschedule with ease with Calendly. Bonus tip: it has a great Zoom integration.

3. Trello – Task Management
Trello is an easy way to manage your tasks and projects. With various plugins, you can customize your boards to suit the way you work.

4. Naverisk – Remote IT
Naverisk helps IT teams deliver consistent service from anywhere in the world. It’s an impressive all-in-one IT services automation platform that keeps your systems running smoothly and accessible from the cloud.

Flowingly helps us deploy custom process systems in under a day.

5. Flowingly – Process Management
Make all of your processes and workflows accessible remotely. Run any process you want from home, from onboarding and training a new staff member, to processing a new sale. Added bonus: Flowingly gives you full visibility of where all your processes are sitting, and who they are sitting with. 

6. Intercom – Customer Engagement
Engage with customers and leads in real-time from anywhere using Intercom. Bonus tip: it can be set up to route conversations down the right channels, whether that is a help article or direct contact with sales or support. 

7. Canva – Graphic Collaboration
Collaborate on and share graphic designs in real-time with Canva. The perfect tool for de-centralizing your graphic creation, while still maintaining your brand style. 

8. Slack – Internal Communication
Slack is perfect for remote teams as it enables 1:1, team and topic-based communication. Bonus tip for pros: you can integrate other platforms to alert your team upon certain events e.g. when a new customer is registered in Salesforce, Slack will automatically let your team know. 

9. Cognism – Contact Data
Sales teams need contact data remotely? Lookup any business or prospect using Cognism, and even add them to a cold email sequence.

Have a suggestion? We’d love to hear about the software you just can’t work without.

Helping staff adopt workflow automation

Helping staff adopt workflow automation

Change can be a doubled-edged sword. With any transformation, employees can face uncertainty. This is true whether you’re introducing a new CRM, ERP or workflow automation platform. The gains to overall efficiency are immense and accompanied by a far superior employee experience. To ensure that your employees face minimal disruption and buy into the project, planning the implementation phase and developing a culture of continuous improvement is essential.

 

The core benefits

At its core, workflow automation is about the linking of steps in a business process. It allows employees to focus on their actual work rather than balancing the processes that support them. Workflow automation has been readily embraced by businesses of all sizes, and it’s not hard to see why. Workflow automation offers:  

  • Greater efficiency
  • Measurability and visibility
  • Better collaboration within and between departments
  • Transparency and accountability
  • Fewer errors

If your employees spend half their day checking emails, always seem unclear on project or task progress, or are wasting energy and time on reviewing, editing and re-doing work, your organization can benefit enormously from workflow automation.

But how can you ensure employees see your workflow automation journey in the same light you do? 

Communicate effectively

People have a tendency to avoid the things they don’t understand. It’s essential for leadership to frequently and honestly communicate with team members about the benefits and challenges of adopting workflow automation. 

There can be a lot of confusion within a workforce around what “automation” involves. Showing your employees that workflow automation won’t replace them will help to alleviate some fear and resistance.

Focusing on the outcomes and bringing staff into the company vision will demonstrate why the effort is worth it. Be sure to reiterate the & benefits that employees will be able to experience directly thanks to automation. The same goes for communicating any expected challenges.

Finally, listening to concerns and taking on feedback will give employees a sense of ownership over the new workflow automation processes and keep them aligned with your vision. Employees intuitively know which processes are slowing them down, which can be improved, and which should be scrapped. After all, they’re on the frontline day in, day out. Getting feedback from them can inform your workflow automation on a company-wide scale.

Educate staff

Workflow automation does require staff to learn to use a new platform. However minor the learning curve, managers and senior leaders need to ensure support is in place. For example, helping staff understand the basics of documenting and improving their processes or providing training for the new process platform software.

It’s worth emphasizing how workflow automation will benefit the employees themselves in order to create enthusiasm for learning.

Understand the short-term impact

It’s important to be understanding of the learning curve as staff come to grips with new technology and an improved way of working.

Make sure to allocate time for learning and feedback. Employee questions need to be heard and addressed. The people who use the processes on a regular basis are an invaluable source and engaging them in the project is essential.

By acknowledging the short-term impact and addressing the concerns around this, you instantly build trust in the workforce.

Facilitate adoption

In order to allow the team to adopt your workflow automation steps, it’s important to facilitate opportunities to do so. This could be in the form of taking sessions with departments and teams to go over and work through process documentation and mapping together.

As a first step, it could be worth assigning a team to test and implement your workflow automation solutions gradually. This could start with process mapping and move gradually into automation. This will help to get collaborators on board with adopting new changes while allowing you to troubleshoot before a full-scale launch.

You may wish to seek support from the vendor when rolling out your workflow automation system, while you keep an eye on processes to identify bottlenecks and areas for further improvement.

A smooth transition

By utilizing workflow automation, organizations can reduce the time their employees spend on menial tasks and redirect focus to more important work. Workflow automation allows companies to achieve more consistent results by reducing expenses and errors. By following the above steps, you will be able to smoothly transition into workflow automation while maintaining employee satisfaction.

If you’d like to learn more about how Flowingly can help you on your process improvement journey, get a demo today!

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Simple is Good – The 3 Step Quarterly Review

Simple is Good – The 3 Step Quarterly Review

When it comes to building process maps and automated workflows, simple is good. Processes can easily become bloated and laborious if you aren’t careful, so it’s a good idea to try and make them as basic as possible.

 

As simple as it gets

One of our favorite flows is the 3-Step Quarterly Review. This process is about as simple as it gets.

Performance reviews are a great place to start with process change. They are an essential part of how a company functions. The review process has a dramatic impact on employee morale. It also sets the role of professional development and formalizes a continuous feedback loop.

By limiting the review process to 3 steps, you can ensure that staff complete their reviews nice and quickly, with minimal stress.

3 steps

Our 3-Step Quarterly Review consists of the following:

Employee Feedback

Start with the employee. This is going to be different for every organization, however you could include questions such as “What are you most proud of over the last 6 months?”, “Do you feel your role has changed since your last review?” or “What areas would you like to improve in?”. If you have formal KPIs, this is a great place to put them. Remember that the purpose of a review is both to evaluate performance and identify development opportunities. Your questions should reflect this.

 

Manager Feedback

When it comes to evaluating employee performance, you are looking at the measures of success (e.g. KPIs), patterns in performance and distinct behaviors. The questions in this section should be the same as the questions posed to the employee. That way you are both evaluating the same thing, and you can easily discuss disparities.

 

Review Meeting

The meeting should always start with the manager outlining the purpose and agenda of the meeting. From there, the employee will have a chance to walk through their responses, expanding on why they felt a certain way. Once the manager has shared their notes on performance, any disparities between the two can be clarified and discussed. The employee should then be given a chance to provide feedback on the manager. Lastly, goals should be set and an ongoing development plan put in place to assist with the employee’s goals.

Is that all?

That’s all there is to it. You could make this process a whole lot more complex. Most companies do. That’s why a lot of review processes drag on over 1-2 months and end up with everyone resenting it.

We found that by moving to a much more simple review process we could shift from an annual to a quarterly review system. This made the reviews easier for both managers and staff, shifting the process from a necessary evil to a genuine feedback system. 

Build it yourself

Feel free to use the 3-Step Quarterly Review for your own team.

The simpler, the better. Breaking processes down to a few simple steps is the best way to ensure compliance and ease of use. The biggest challenge you will find in process improvement is resistance to change. So make it as easy as possible for those involved. Without all the excess, they’ll love how easy your new processes are and will quickly become supporters of the change.

If you’d like to learn more about how Flowingly can help you on your process improvement journey, get a demo today!

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