Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Do you document your business process changes?

We all know that if you change a business process you should change the procedures to match, don't we?

When we are being formal about the change this is easy to do.

When we are trying out new ideas this can lead to inconsistencies in how we update our formal procedures, unless we are prepared to handle this situation.

Does this happen to you?

Imagine that you have a problem with how one part of your business operates. Customer complaints and internal mistakes make it clear to you that something needs to change.

You come up with some options to change this situation, but aren't quite sure what way you need to go in terms of making a decision.

So, you conduct a trial and determine that one of the options is more than satisfactory.

You confirm this verbally to your team and as the problem is believed to have gone away you get back to your day job.

A few months pass by and then the exact same problem re-occurs.

What happened?

The knowledge wasn't formally included into your procedures (whether this is a quality system, or standard operating procedures, or something else) and it has now become lost as a formal instruction.

If you have a change in personnel during this time this could be linked to the training not being as up to date as it should be.

This is a very common problem for many businesses. If you haven't got a method to keep track of your business experiments / trials then it can be very easy to let these changes get through the net.

If you reflect on the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) cycle you can see how the Act stage is the phase where we determine to leave the improvement trials and formalise the process.

So how do you improve the rate at which you capture these changes?

A simple strategy

There are many ways to manage this kind of process, but one of the simplest (I like simple solutions that work) is to keep a list on a whiteboard and not remove it until either you decide to either:

  • Cease work on the change (and leave the process as it is), or,
  • Formalise the change into your business' documentation.
Having the whiteboard in a central location that is highly visible can increase the uptake of the changes being experimented with and is a strategy worth pursuing.

What do you think?


About the author
Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who specialises in helping businesses to grow and improve through better business processes.
Giles is also the author of Business Process Re-Engineering and creator of the 'Making It Happen' continuous improvement toolkit.

C'mon! Just write the SOP!