What Is Process Simplification?
Process Simplification involves systematically studying each business process, uncovering hidden sources of complexity. This idea is to permanently eliminate complex steps, wasted resources and non-value-added process activities, and implement ways to optimise the process.
The beauty of Process Simplification is that often the benefits materialise immediately. From greater efficiencies, better product quality, shorter process completion times, to increased capacity and reduced expenses – productivity levels will go through the roof. Not to mention the knock-on effects on employee engagement and health.
Why Don’t Businesses Simplify?
Business simplification consultant, Katrina Crittenden from Zymplify says: “In our experience, there isn’t just one reason why companies put off streamlining and harmonising their business and processes – but a collective of challenges that are usually inherently embedded in the operations of the business. As businesses grow, processes become more complex, resulting in an increased number of steps, tasks, and resources required. The more complex a process becomes, the greater the likelihood of errors, rework, completion times, and support and training – and the chance people are too overwhelmed to fix it!”
Complexity can come in two guises, structural complexity and accustomed complexity. Structural complexity happens in large businesses over time. They may range from subtle changes in reporting relationships to the establishment of new units. It’s their accumulation across all areas of the business over time which can create layers of complexity.
Accustomed complexity is when managers believe the only route to progress is adding layers of complexity. For example, when a company introduces new layers of management, an executive may naturally ask for more reports and e-mail updates. The undesired result is a vicious cycle of reporting – adding additional complexity. Quickly businesses become accustomed to convoluted, heavy, and expensive systems. Businesses fear detangling their process and products because they believe they don’t have the right skills or knowledge, and time. They are simply overwhelmed by the challenge and therefore the task is reprioritised.
Signs Your Business Processes Are Complex
- High Levels Of Mistakes & CorrectionsThe number one sign a process isn’t working is the level of mistakes and corrections. If you have constant mistakes then the knock-on effect isn’t just wasted time, but money, and even safety. On the other side, if you have a process where tasks are frequently sent back to the executors for correction or revision, then this will lead to poor efficiency.
- Fragmented Work ProcessThis is when some parts of a process are aligned and automated, and others are executed manually. This can also be the result of gaps in the automation when using different IT systems which don’t talk to each other. Not only does this waste time and increase the chance of errors, often there is a duplication of work.
- Excessive BureaucracyExcessive approvals and reporting at all points of a task is often the first sign of a complex and inefficient process. Another sign is decision-making mid-way through tasks, which often results in wasted work and time.
Top Tips To Simplify Your Processes
- Streamline Organisational StructureTo simplify your processes effectively, you must start by periodically adjusting the structure of your organisation. Start by centralising functions or consolidating and shifting reporting relationships, the idea is the simplify and streamline common services, inputs and outputs.
- Managerial AccountabilityIt is important you then ensure your managers are committed to reducing complexity by identifying how their own (often unintentional) patterns of behaviour can complicate matters. They will need to be accountable and responsible for removing those habits which hinder simplification.
- Review All ProcessesOnce the right structure is in place take a hard look at the processes currently in place from reporting and planning, to new product development and introduction, performance management, and so on. The idea is to develop a simpler set of enterprise-wide processes with input and engagement from all areas of the business from the grassroots level upwards.
- Process Standardisation & AutomationOnce the discovery and analysis of workflow process has been completed, it is time to make the most sustainable improvements possible. From standardising recurring and identical processes to automating those processes by leveraging technology and outsourcing to quality suppliers.
At Zymplify, we believe a simplification strategy must be treated as a business imperative—not a “nice to have” virtue. It requires an explicit strategy and it takes hard work, but the results will speak for themselves.