Sunday, May 20, 2012

4 Steps to Eliminate Process Failures

Things go wrong. You get upset. People get reprimanded. And then it happens all over again - either the same problem or a different problem. This comes up in CEBI meetings all the time. Why is that? 

You have business processes. I hope they're documented and people refer to them, at least occasionally. If that's not the case, you have a problem that we'll cover in another article.   

Even with documented business processes, something goes wrong. That's a business process failure. What separates great organizations from good organizations is their response to a business process failure. 

Many good organizations, after the reprimand, say something like, "Don't let that happen again." And then, of course it does. That's due to a lack of an important business process of its own -- the process of responding to a process failure. Here's a rough outline of what should happen in the case of a process failure:
  1. It's documented -- there's actually a written report of what happened. This can be a simple template on a shared drive or knowledge base, and the process failure reports can be saved in a similar location.
  2. It's analyzed to its root cause. This is not a toss-off answer, like "Failed to follow the process." The Japanese say, "Ask WHY five times." For example:
    -  Order got shipped to the wrong customer
    -  Why?
    -  Jack wasn't here, and Jim did the shipping
    -  Why was that a problem?
    -  Jim doesn't know the shipping process
    -  Why?
    -  He hasn't been trained
    -  Why?
    -  He's not Jack's backup for shipping
    -  Who is?
    -  Actually, it was John, who quit last month, and we didn't train anyone else
    -  So what's the root cause of this problem?
    -  We don't have a clear-cut list of backup people for critical business processes like shipping
  3. Once the real root cause is identified, then the important final step kicks in -- Corrective Action. The corrective action can take a lot of forms, such as:
    -  Creation of a checklist that doesn't exist
    -  Posting of a checklist that didn't get run in a place it's easy to find
    -  A process improvement to an established business process that broke
    -  Creation of a new business process to replace an informal handoff of knowledge
  4. Implement and test the Corrective Action. Make sure it works, and make sure everyone who's supposed to be trained in the new process actually is. 
A business owner once said, "We don't seem to have a consequence for not following our business processes." I said, ""Why not make the consequence fit the misbehavior? The person who fails to follow a business process is required to do the process failure analysis and write up the corrective action."

To forward this to a friend, Click Here

Terry Weaver

Chief Executive Boards International
Chief Executive Boards International: Freedom for business owners & CEOs -- Less Work, More Money, More Freedom to enjoy it

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments to CEBI Blog articles are moderated to ensure member privacy and control spam. All comments except those deemed inappropriate should post within 24 hours.