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How Much Should You Care About Broken Processes?

A clogged highway is not a stress-free place. Automobiles are lined up bumper-to-bumper with drivers sitting impatiently. Many drivers choose to relax while a few might create more stress for themselves and others by manoeuvring their car ruthlessly to get ahead.

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A clogged highway is not a stress-free place. Automobiles are lined up bumper-to-bumper with drivers sitting impatiently. Many drivers choose to relax while a few might create more stress for themselves and others by manoeuvring their car ruthlessly to get ahead. The situation could be worse on a snowy day. A broken process is like a clogged highway. There are many direct and indirect effects on a business.

These effects include:

  • Delays in job completion—a lot of time is wasted in waiting for the problem area to sort things out. People who do the work downstream are helpless. Work is also backed up for the folks who do work upstream.
  • Higher cost—when there is a bottleneck, overtime work or more people are necessary. You incur additional costs.
  • Customer complaints—late delivery and poor service are the direct consequences. Customers are quick to notice the shortcomings. It is undesirable when customers are affected.
  • Lost revenue—you put customer loyalty to the test when you fail to serve your customers. Competition lurks around your customers. Unhappy customers can defect to competition which erodes your revenue stream.
  • Frustration—employees are frustrated and stressed because they are exposed to criticism and judgement even though the problem is a broken process, not them. They follow a process which is cumbersome and certain elements simply don’t work.
  • Poor morale—constant frustration leads to low morale. It is difficult to feel positive about one’s job when everyday, he needs to deal with problems that are known but no one does anything about them.
  • Brand erosion—discontent customers spread their dissatisfaction quickly to their friends and through the social media. It takes seconds to tarnish the brand that you have worked hard to build.

These effects ripple through the business. When there is a broken process, fix it.

There are 5 steps to fix a broken process:

Diagnose problem

Gather information on the problem by speaking with the people involved in the process. Observe and understand the pain points. Separate the effects from the causes. Investigate and identify the root cause of the broken process.

Collect data

Collect data on volume, processing time, delay, and other relevant measurements that could be useful for sizing the problem. It is important to understand the magnitude of effects, which affects the type and choice of the solution.

Brainstorm options

List potential solutions for fixing the process. The solution could be a partial fix for the short-term or a full solution that requires extensive work. Vet the options with the people who do the work to ensure that they make sense. Assess the costs and benefits.

Implement solution

Follow a detail plan for implementation. Communicate the purpose and how, provide relevant and appropriate training, offer support on change, and apply common sense throughout the implementation.

Finetune solution

Monitor improvements and determine if modifications are necessary. Perfection is not the goal but you want to eliminate the deficiencies to achieve the intended improvements. Fine tune the solution to enhance results.

Broken is broken. Prompt action is necessary to avoid the negative effects of a broken process to propagate throughout the business. Processes are like highways in your business. Any clog could be damaging.

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