Introduction to The Process for Optimizing a Process:

The Process for Optimizing a Process

69% of businesses have documented processes. However, only 4% manage and measure them properly.

This means there's an uncountable number of businesses lagging behind because their processes are depreciated and outdated. 

Don't let your business suffer, too.

With this Process for Optimizing a Process, you can take control of your processes via optimization.

Here's how it works.

First, you'll confirm your basic details and the details of the person reviewing your process improvement suggestions. 

Afterward, you'll get to the nitty-gritty and begin to define the process you want to optimize, measure how it currently performs, analyze how it can be optimized, decide how to improve it, and then implement the new process with controls; creating a plan to measure it and review it again in future. 

This process follows the DMAIC structure for process improvement. If you want to read more about how you can use the DMAIC process at an advanced level, you can read this article:

The process should be run whenever a process needs to be optimized. Process Street - which is state-of-the-art BPM software - suggests using this checklist on at least a quarterly basis. But you can run it as often as you like!

Confirm basic details

Confirm the details of who's involved with optimizing the process.

First thing's first: Write down your basic details (name, job role, email) and the details of the person who'll approve the optimization changes you suggest.

Add role assignments to this checklist template, so it's easy for people to know which tasks they work should be working on. (The approver should complete task 17 only, while the optimizer completes the rest.)

Who, exactly, will be the approver is situational. It could be a relevant departmental manager, the creator of the process in question and, in some instances, it could even be you yourself!

Use the following form fields to supply the details.


Identifying the process:

With those basics out of the way, let's get to the nitty-gritty!

Identify the process's components

Identify the process's components. 

To understand how to improve a process, you have to first understand what it is. Reading and then answering the questions below will help you identify the components of the process you'd like to optimize. 

Here's an example:

Q: What's the process's title? A: Sending a newsletter process.
Q: What's the process's goal? A: To send an error-free newsletter to a list of subscribers.
Q:
When does it start & end? A: It starts when the newsletter is created, and ends when it's sent out.
Q:
What activities drive the process? A: Creating, proofing, testing, and sending of the newsletter.
Q:
Who does the process involve? A: The marketing department (Mike and Astrid, specifically).

Read the questions below then write your answers in the appropriate text fields.

Assess how the process is performing

Assess how the process is currently performing.

It's hard to know if a process needs optimizing or not without understanding how it's currently performing.

Carry out qualitative and quantitative assessments by taking actions such as: 

  • Measuring the process against its KPI or expected outputs.
  • Talking to the customer for this process (i.e. whoever receives the value the process creates), the process owner, and the process user.
  • Understanding the value this process creates.

Write down your notes from the research in the corresponding text boxes.

Confirm if the process requires optimization

Confirm whether the process requires optimization.

After completing the last step, you should now know how the process is performing.

You may have been pleasantly surprised that the process and is far more optimized than you thought. However, the research could've also confirmed that the process is in need of optimization.

Use the first dropdown to confirm if the process requires optimization ("Yes"), or if it doesn't ("No").

Then, use the second dropdown to confirm if you'll test run new changes before officially implementing them.

The rest of this checklist will then adapt accordingly thanks to conditional logic.

It's particularly important to be lean (maximizing value and minimizing waste) when it comes to process optimization. Here are resources that will help you be super lean:

Rethinking the process:

Reworking a process can be done in many ways. In the rest of this process, we will follow the DMAIC methodology of business process optimization.

Process optimization, however, can be done in various ways. 

Read the following resources to learn more about DMAIC and other, different optimization methods:

Define how long it takes to complete the process

Define how long it takes users to complete the process.

No matter if it's a short or comprehensive process, all processes can take too long if there are inefficiencies.

Use the text box below to write down notes on how long it takes users to complete the process.

Consider where bottlenecks occur

Consider where bottlenecks occur in the process.

Finding there are certain steps where the process stops in its tracks? Bottlenecks are signs that a process requires optimization and needs to be rethought.

Use the text box below to write down notes concerning bottlenecks.

If there aren't any bottlenecks, simply type "This process has no bottlenecks."

Bottlenecks in the business world are, unfortunately, rather common.

To learn how to quash those bottlenecks - in your processes and wider business efforts - once and for all, check out the following posts:

Seeing as a countless number of bottlenecks occur due to items not getting approved (or rejected) within an appropriate timeframe, you might want to research Process Street's Approvals feature (which is used within this very process) in more detail:

Examine potentially wasteful steps

Examine potentially wasteful steps in the process.

Sometimes, processes contain steps that repeat previously-stated information, steps that aren't helpful, or steps that simply don't add anything.

Examine if your process has any wasteful steps in it via the subchecklist below, then write about those wasteful steps in the text box below.

Write "The process has no wasteful steps." if there aren't any.

  • 1
    Waste of overproduction (largest waste)
  • 2
    Waste of time on hand (waiting)
  • 3
    Waste of transportation
  • 4
    Waste of processing itself
  • 5
    Waste of stock at hand
  • 6
    Waste of movement
  • 7
    Waste of making defective products

The idea of waste - and getting rid of any wasteful steps, activities, and processes - plays a large part in process optimization methodology.

To learn more about 'Muda' (what the Japanese call waste in a business context) and how you can get rid of waste too, read this post:

Assess if any steps are confusing

Assess if any steps are confusing.

Confusing steps in a process can have numerous negative impacts. For instance, it could be the cause of a bottleneck or be so confusing that it's deemed a wasteful step.

Assess your process to see if any steps are confusing, then write down relevant notes in the text box.

Write "There aren't any confusing steps." if your process is devoid of them.

Look to see if the process can be simplified

Look to see if the process can be simplified in any way.

A process that's unnecessarily complicated or complex isn't an optimized process.

Look at your process and the steps involved to see if there are areas where it can be made simpler to understand and use.

Write down your notes on how the process could be simplified below.

If there are no ways you can simplify the process further, write "The process can't be simplified more than it is right now."

Note which steps can be automated

Note which steps can be automated.

The final step of rethinking the process concerns thinking about the ways the process can be bettered further with automation.

Write down which steps can be automated in the box below.

For instance, if the process requires the transfer of data between apps (let's say adding Dropbox files to Google Drive), that's easy to do with Zapier. Zapier allows you to set up a rule for all future actions that meet specific criteria. For example, 'whenever a new file is added to Dropbox, transfer it to Drive'.

What you can automate is almost limitless. For guidance, read through Process Street's Ultimate Guide to Business Process Automation eBook.

You might also want to consider adding Process Street's workflow automation tools to your process templates, such as:

- Stop tasks
Conditional logic
Dynamic due dates
Task permissions
Task assignments
Role assignments
Embed widget
Approvals! ✅

Keep in mind that you can use Process Street's webhooks for in-app automation. If your organization subscribes to the appropriate plan, you can also take advantage of API access.

Suggesting improvements:

Seeing as you've considered how you can go about optimizing a process, it's time to suggest improvements.

Write the potential process improvements

Write down the potential process improvements that could be made.

With an idea of how the process at hand could be optimized and improved, write down each suggestion you have below.

There are form fields for you to write up to 5 improvement suggestions below. If you have more than 5 suggestions - or you'd like to clarify anything - use the 'Extra notes' box.

To remind you of what you've previously written about the process, the text can be seen again below thanks to variables.


How the process stands

Notes on how it's performing (quantitatively):
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Notes on how it's performing (qualitatively):
{{form.Notes_on_qualitative_performance}}

Notes on the value the process creates:
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Rethinking the process

Notes on how long it takes to complete the process:
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Notes on where bottlenecks occur:
{{form.Notes_on_bottlenecks}}

Notes on wasteful (redundant) steps:
{{form.Notes_on_wasteful_steps}}

Notes on confusing steps:
{{form.Notes_on_confusing_steps}}

Notes on how the process could be simplified:
{{form.Notes_on_process_simplification}}

Notes on what can be automated:
{{form.What_can_you_automate?_2}}


Getting approval:

This part's easy; you don't have to do anything!

That's because the next step is an approval task. This means the person you named as the approver will now look over your process improvement suggestions. (They've been automatically assigned to the task thanks to role assignments.)

If they approve your suggestions, you can then move onto the next steps where you'll either implement the changes straight away or test them first. However, if they reject your suggestions, you'll have to go back to the drawing board and come up with other suggestions for optimization with any feedback in mind.

Approval: Process improvements

Will be submitted for approval:
  • Identify the process's components
    Will be submitted
  • Write the potential process improvements
    Will be submitted

Testing the process improvements:

This section will guide you through testing the proposed process improvements properly.

Update a process document copy

Make a copy of the process and update it with process improvement changes.

You've got the go-ahead to make the proposed process improvements.

But first, create a copy of the process in question. This is so you're not updating the master document with changes until you've figured out if they're beneficial changes or not.

Then, update the copied process with the new process improvements.

Provide a link to (or upload) the updated, copied process below.

Choose who will test the updated process

Choose who will test the updated process.

After updating the copied process with the changes, choose who will test the updated process.

This could be a selection of people, one person, or maybe even you yourself.

Write down the names of the people or the name of the person testing the updated process.

Define what would make the improvements successful

Define what would make the improvements successful.

Before the updated process is tested, you'll want to consider what would make the improvements be deemed as successful. 

If the improvements managed to make the process, as a whole, faster, would that be your measurement of success? Or would it be something else?

Define what would make the improvements be seen as a success in the text box below.

Use the updated process

Use the updated process.

This part is easy, too; it's time for the tester(s) to follow and use the updated process!

Get them to do this as soon as possible.

If you'd like a checklist template to guide you through the testing process itself, Process Street has you covered:

Add feedback on the updated process

Add feedback on how the new process works. 

The updated process has been followed and tested. Now you can get feedback from those who tested it.

Ask questions such as:

  • Were the changes positive or negative overall?
  • Specifically, what felt positive about the changes?
  • Did any of the changes have negative impacts?
  • Are there any other changes that could be made to optimize the process?

After you've asked these questions (or similar ones), add the feedback from the tester(s) in the text box.

For process improvement - and many other areas of business - getting feedback is incredibly important to make processes, products, and experiences the best they can be.

This post (and accompanying template) will help you with getting solid feedback:

Determine what improvements should go forward

Determine what process improvements should go forward.

Read the feedback from the tester(s) below, take everything into account, and determine which process improvements should go forward and be made to the master document.

Note down the process improvements going forward.


Feedback from the updated process tester

{{form.Updated_process_feedback}}

The successful improvements definition

{{form.Successful_improvements_definition}}

Optimizing the process:

By this point, the approver's given you the go-ahead to make process changes and you may have even tested them out.

Next up: Making those optimizing changes to the master process document.

Implement the process changes

Implement the process changes.

It's time to make those changes!

Remember, make sure the changes are made to the master process document, not the copied process document you made if you trialed the changes.

Once you've made the process changes, write down what you did in the text box below.

Success!

After writing down the changes you made, the process in question should now be more optimized.

Communicate the process changes

Communicate the process changes to others it may concern.

To ensure everybody's on the same page and aware of how the process has changed, let the people who use the process know about its improvements.

You can use the email widget below to send off this communicative email straight away. All you have to do is add the emails of whom it concerns in the "To" field, and edit the rest of the email appropriately.

As writer Ben Mulholland says in his post on change management models, "[When it comes to changes] Communication, support, and education are vital, as you want to limit any difficulties in the transition and address problems as soon as they arise".

Communication and transparency is a best practice when it comes to business process optimization. Without it, teammates will be left in the dark regarding the process changes.

To learn more about how to communicate effectively, read these materials on change management and internal business communication. There's also a template you can use to go about change effectively:

Determine how the process will be monitored

Determine how the process will be monitored.

After optimizing a process, monitoring a process to ensure it's working effectively or not in the long-run is important. It allows you to immediately step in and take action if a process needs to be changed urgently.

Think - and/or discuss with your team - how the process in question will be monitored. Then, write down how below.

Schedule the next process review and optimization

Schedule the next process optimization review.

It only takes a short amount of time for a process to become outdated. And an outdated process helps no one.

Schedule this checklist to run in three months' time, so you can review whether the process needs to be optimized again.

Scheduling checklists in Process Street to launch at a future date is incredibly easy. Take a look at this help guide to schedule checklists yourself.

Then, use the date widget below to confirm when you've scheduled the checklist to run again.

Success! You've scheduled the next process optimization review.

Congratulations on completing the checklist. See you soon!

Sources:

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