Finding Balance in Process Improvements

The most detrimental factor in process improvements is the lack of balance between process, people, and technologies.  When improvements are made to the environment, often the focus is on one area while not providing sufficient notice on the other two.   Focus on one area too much and the other areas fall out of alignment causing the business to fall out of balance.  The result drives a numerous negative situations that often requires spending more money than would have been required.

Improvements to technology require that the people are trained to utilize it and updating the process to reflect the changes caused by better or different tools.  Any ignorance to training the people in the technology and how to use it will result in having tools that are not being used effectively, essentially being a waste of the money spent on it.  In improvements to automation, training the people maintaining the technology is just as crucial, as well as documenting the installed configurations.  Within the process, indicating that steps that once required human effort is now automated and communicating that change will keep confusion down.  If the changes require different actions from the staff, documenting the new procedures will serve to communicate and formalize the changes.

Processes changes need to ensure that the technology and staff are able to handle the improvement.  New ways of doing things typically result is a change or shift in resource usage, whether it is a decline, increase, or different resource being used.  If the technology cannot keep up with the change, the intended goal of the process improvement may not be fulfilled.  The same thing happens if the staff does not completely understand the change, nor have been properly prepared before the change takes effect.  Improper preparation typically results in complete failure in the improvements, since the first few moments usually provide most of the acceptance of an improvement.  Failure in those moments will raise the resistance to the improvement.

People are a crucial aspect of implementing any improvement to the business.  Mainly done through  providing opportunities to increase skills and knowledge, the organization also has an opportunity to utilize the newly required skills to their benefit while giving the employee an opportunity to practice.  Keeping these personal improvements isolated and unused will eventually drive apathy and dissatisfaction with the job:  the ultimate result is the possible loss of a valued employee.

The moral of the story, make sure that equal attention is provided to improving technology, processes, and people in your organization.