When the way we’ve always done it isn’t

When “the way we have always done it” isn’t causing any problems and the system is coping, there’s very little incentive to make changes. But when things start to go wrong and no one is sure why, it’s time to review the processes and look for improvements. This is a common situation that WLP are asked to help with, and one that I recently found myself in with a new client.

The client knew that their processes had their oddities and quirks, but they met the demands of the workload and everyone worked around them. Then something changed. It wasn’t working. Critical tasks weren’t being done, and deadlines were being missed. No one could put their finger on what had changed or why the system was no longer working. Extra checks were put in place to catch errors, but the failures of the system were causing stress and sleepless nights for a conscientious workforce. It wasn’t getting better and it wouldn’t fix itself.

This was where I was invited in to review what was happening. A diagnostic highlighted several typical issues:

  • Work volume was focused on the willing and conscientious.
  • Roles and responsibilities were not clearly defined.
  • Data quality was poor, and a multitude of spreadsheets was proliferating to compensate.
  • Processes were not standardised.
  • No one owned the overall process or had real responsibility for its success or failure.
  • Demand was outpacing the capacity of the process and the people involved.

With the principal shortcomings of the as-is identified I brought in the stakeholders for a workshop focused on improvements. Together, and using a Lean Six Sigma approach, we completely dismantled the process and reassembled it into a streamlined, logical, and coherent form. We clarified the roles of individuals, re-evaluated some myths around the old process, and documented what had to be done, when, and by whom. We now had a system that met the business needs and where everyone knew what was expected.

The client is now operating the new process, but cautiously. The devil is in the detail, and recent events have emphasised that the unexpected is always around the corner. With a clear roadmap forward the team can solve the problems they face and embrace the new ways of working.

If you have a business process that’s struggling and you can’t see the way ahead, contact Steve at WLP for a no obligation conversation.