Process and Team Work
We all know how wide specification of benefits an organization can derive from beginning the Business Process Improvement (BPI). The first and debatably most important piece of the puzzle is the Project Team Leader, who should be completely on board with the value the business process improvement will impart. The project may take many twists and turns through its life, so it is imperative the leader be able to deal with these challenges, yet keep the process on a straight path. However, a leader cannot act alone, and therefore requires a strong and committed team to execute. But the real question is, once this team is in place, what comes next?
Set a Baseline
The next step in the business improvement process is to set a baseline. It has often been said, “You cannot know how to find your way to the destination unless you know where you are.” The same holds true for a business improvement journey.
First, the team should gather some key performance measurements and their value over the past six to twelve months. A sample of these follows.
- Inventory value
- Throughput Cycle Time
A detailed explanation of these performance metrics is beyond the scope of this article, but a good reference is the book The Balanced Scorecard, by Kaplan and Norton.
Don’t Be Afraid to Set Aggressive Goals
Once your baseline in place, set some aggressive goals. A 20 – 50% improvement is not really as impossible as it sounds. You may not reach your “stretch” goal by the end of the business improvement process, but don’t worry. The “stretch” goal is designed to provide a meaningful target that energizes the project team and forces it to think well “out of the box” when considering improvement project options.
The Importance of Process Maps
The next step is to create process maps for each function that can be summarized up to the primary ERP-related process flows.
- Design to Launch
- Quote to Order
- Order to Cash
- Plan to Produce
- Procure to Pay
- Record to Report
These process maps should be created at the functional level, i.e. Design, Planning/Scheduling, Production, etc. to assure the many sub-processes within the overall process are covered. Finally, these detailed business improvement process maps can be summarized to create the top-level cross-functional processes. Many readers will be familiar with the popular Value Stream Mapping process, which can also be utilized to define these processes.
How to Incorporate Non-Value Added Activities
As mentioned previously, developing these process maps serves to create a vehicle for the discussion of non-value added (NVA) and wasteful activities that currently exist in the business improvement process. Non-value added activities are those that may or may not be required, but clearly do not add value from your customer’s point of view.
If your customer has to pay for these NVAs with an itemized invoice, you will have a problem. Many of these NVA activities have likely been developed over several years to address shortcomings in the existing ERP system, while others have evolved for various reasons associated with the culture of an organization. These work-around processes are often explained by the comment “we’ve always done things this way.” A successful BPI project requires all such NVA activities be documented.
Importance of Team Work
Typically, project teams will identify dozens of issues causing waste within the business improvement process and capture them with a list that can easily run into triple digits. It is important these issues be prioritized, as then only the most critical or highest yielding benefits to the company will be activated for root cause solution definition and subsequent mitigation.
In summary, define the current state of your processes in detail. Next, identify the issues causing delays and non-value added activity. Set priorities and begin to develop solutions to these challenges. With these actions you will have created a strong foundation for development of the Business Case for Change and Future State process maps that follow.
We all have roles in our organizations but it is the power of teamwork that makes our endeavors successful. It takes everyone working together on a common goal to be successful in Lean.
A team of people can achieve far more than the sum of the total of the individuals skills alone.
In business teams can achieve:
- They can generate a wider range of ideas and innovation than individuals;
- They are able to motivate themselves;
- They can bounce ideas off each team member;
- They often take more risks than individuals;
- They have a range of personalities such as workers, thinkers, leaders who contribute the right balance of skills necessary to achieve high performance;
- They support each other and are not just task-orientated;
- They can be a support mechanism which provide mentoring and allow others to grow in self- confidence.
Teamwork is important to the success of an organization, but as the saying goes: “it’s like getting rich or falling in love, you cannot simply will it to happen.” Teamwork is a practice. Teamwork is an outcome. And teamwork leverages the individual skills of every team member.
Groups don’t just become teams because we use that name and it is not about teamwork. Teams act as a collective unit with shared commitment and not a band of individual contributors. Just like in Lean the whole, or in this case, the team is greater than the sum of the individual parts. Teams often are more difficult to form because it takes time for members to learn to work together. Management support encourage the use of teams in their organization.
Collaboration and team work create an environment that allows the collective knowledge, resources and skills of each team member to flourish. When people work together they can complete tasks faster by dividing the work to people of different abilities and knowledge.
Teamwork can lead to better decisions, products, or services.