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Just Enough Process

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by Kunio Hasebe and Scott S. Elliott

A start-up or small company can usually operate effectively with few structured policies or business processes. The employees all meet frequently and informally and fill multiple roles to develop and deliver value to their customers. However, as a company grows in size and complexity and workers specialize, a set ofdefined work procedures (processes) is needed to coordinate efforts and organize the results. In developing and implementing these processes, many companies try to implement too many rigid processes, hindering their ability to serve their customer flexibly.  So, how do you define the right level of process to serve customer’s need efficiently?

A Business Process is a series of repeatable steps to create, measure or add value to the products or services of the company. Implementing just a few key processes that improve communication and work efficiency can really help a growing company. Examples of such key processes are Product Development and Order Fulfillment. Your company's key processes can be identified by examining your Business Goals and mapping your Value Delivery Chain. Key processes need to be well defined, documented and communicated. A process owner should be assigned to each key process. These operational processes should be designed with internal and external customer needs in mind. The trick is to design them with the fewest steps and minimum number of hand-offs. Elaborate "approval loops" and paths can really slow down the Value Delivery Chain and frustrate everyone involved. Trying to bring in too many processes too fast can also slow the company down drastically.

The Operations Management Team should develop a roadmap of a complete set of operational and management processes that are all linked to the customers’ process. The new processes should be treated like any other major project, with success goals, metrics, timing and a budget for implementation. Start with the processes that will have the highest pay-back in efficiency or add the most value for the customers, and introduce them just one (or a few) at a time. The introduction should include training and change management consulting for all affected employees. And only add processes as they are really needed as the company grows - Just Enough Process!

 

To get the most out of each process implementation:

  • Assign a process owner to define and document each process' function, goals and expectations.
  • The process owner should monitor and review the process performance periodically.
  • Seek feedback from the users (customers) of the process and use those data to drive continuous process improvement.
  • Process management should be deployed throughout the organization, and all employees should be fully trained.

 

The benefits of practicing Just Enough Process include increases in work efficiency, automation of many onerous tasks, improved ability to measure the business, and a clear path to further growth and profit.

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