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3 Benefits of Analyzing Work Processes

In a current client engagement, we are analyzing their work processes. Now more often than not, this can be very tedious work. The whole purpose of undertaking this task is to assess the present condition of the company’s operations in regards to efficiency, customer centricity and employee productivity. While this may seem to be a daunting task, the return on the time investment is well worth the effort. Let’s look at three benefits of analyzing processes.

Insights Gained
An important step in process analysis projects is to interview the people who actually perform the work in the process. I like to spend time with a client’s employees as they perform their duties and document step by step what they actually do when completing job tasks. The amount of insight gained from this approach usually proves very enlightening to management personnel. Oftentimes, employees develop their own set of work steps to complete their tasks within the process. When they deem the process too cumbersome or inefficient, employees will create “work arounds” in order to get the work done in a timely manner – especially when their pay is tied to performance. After completing this task, opportunities to remove delays or inefficiencies and to introduce improvements become apparent.

Teamwork
It’s true that most processes are cross functional – meaning they may start in one department and travel across others within the company. Analyzing processes requires participation from everyone that performs a task within the process. I like to get all of the participants in one room and go through the process step by step to insure that “yes – that’s how we do it today.” Then we start to get process improvement ideas. Discussions arise in regards to the proper way to complete the steps within the process. Employees can communicate face to face to build a process that fits the needs of all departments, stakeholders, and customers. Once done, employees feel as though they have a stake in the success of the process, as they were given the opportunity to communicate their ideas and concerns.

Enhanced Training
Proficiency in one’s assigned tasks helps to build confidence in employees. Training is one way to assist in building proficiency. As a company analyzes and documents all of its work processes, training tools become easily creatable. These documented processes can be used to develop standard operating procedures and policies. Both new and tenured employees now have a reference point to insure they are properly performing their assigned duties. “How to” documents and videos are some additional training products that can be produced when one develops and documents efficient, employee and customer friendly processes. Your entire operation will certainly run smoother, your employees will be happier and your customers will certainly receive great service.

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When the Leader is the Problem

As an operations/customer service consultant, I get a first hand view of the internal workings of multiple companies. I have the privilege to observe the corporate chemistry – how leadership interacts with employees, how employees interact with leadership, how employees interact with one another and how leaders and employees interact with customers. I get to observe unspoken words cloaked in body language and behavior. When approached by frustrated leaders, it is necessary to be honest in regards to what I feel is creating a negative atmosphere – I sometimes have to tell them that they are the problem. Here are a few instances that I observed where the leader is the problem.

Undefined Expectations
When expectations are clearly and well defined, employee accountability is usually crystal clear. When the leader assumes and verbalizes that employees should “just use common sense”, trouble is not far behind. It is imperative that expectations are clearly communicated – primarily via a job description and a set of performance standards. Leaders must be serious about taking the necessary steps to developing and communicating expectations.

Poor Employee Relations
Some of the most shocking behavior that I have witnessed has come from leaders. Condescending communication, temper tantrums laced with profanity, the “blame game” just to name a few. Cultures where the leader is prone to any of these is not conducive to long term productivity and a high rate of employee turnover is sure to follow. Disrespectful actions must be eliminated before a positive environment can exist.

Unclear Direction
In business, it is sometimes necessary to alter course in response to one’s market or to other economic pressures. When altering course becomes a weekly activity, it creates unnecessary chaos. It’s as if current projects have no meaning as it has now become necessary to “take a different approach”. Employees are caught up in the helter – skelter environment and soon grow indifferent to any ideas presented by the leader as they realize that their hard work never fully reaches the implementation stage – because the leader will soon present something “new” to chase.

Know it All Attitude
When one has a “know it all” attitude, it’s almost impossible for new ideas presented by others to receive any form of consideration. Leaders exhibiting this type of behavior rarely have the ability to keep good people on staff. Employees become exasperated by the leaders inability to consider that someone else can think. Meetings with this type of leader become a lecture vs a give and take session. I have witnessed employees falling asleep in meetings as the leader rambles on and on as if to impress everyone with their knowledge. Employees consider these meetings a waste of time, become reluctant to attend (sometimes communicate reasons that they cannot attend) and often find another place to work.

These are just a few of the behaviors that I have witnessed. Leaders often state to me – “I wish that I had employees who really care about their job, I wish I had employees that I could depend on. I wish my employees could understand what I encounter in trying to keep this business afloat.” I often in turn ask “Is it really the employees that are the problem? Have you considered what role you play in your employees behavior?”

As an operations/customer service consultant, I get a first hand view of the internal workings of multiple companies. I have the privilege to observe the corporate chemistry – how leadership interacts with employees, how employees interact with leadership, how employees interact with one another and how leaders and employees interact with customers. I get to observe unspoken words cloaked in body language and behavior. When approached by frustrated leaders, it is necessary to be honest in regards to what I feel is creating a negative atmosphere – I sometimes have to tell them that they are the problem. Here are a few instances that I observed where the leader is the problem.

Undefined Expectations
When expectations are clearly and well defined, employee accountability is usually crystal clear. When the leader assumes and verbalizes that employees should “just use common sense”, trouble is not far behind. It is imperative that expectations are clearly communicated – primarily via a job description and a set of performance standards. Leaders must be serious about taking the necessary steps to developing and communicating expectations.

Poor Employee Relations
Some of the most shocking behavior that I have witnessed has come from leaders. Condescending communication, temper tantrums laced with profanity, the “blame game” just to name a few. Cultures where the leader is prone to any of these is not conducive to long term productivity and a high rate of employee turnover is sure to follow. Disrespectful actions must be eliminated before a positive environment can exist.

Unclear Direction
In business, it is sometimes necessary to alter course in response to one’s market or to other economic pressures. When altering course becomes a weekly activity, it creates unnecessary chaos. It’s as if current projects have no meaning as it has now become necessary to “take a different approach”. Employees are caught up in the helter – skelter environment and soon grow indifferent to any ideas presented by the leader as they realize that their hard work never fully reaches the implementation stage – because the leader will soon present something “new” to chase.

Know it All Attitude
When one has a “know it all” attitude, it’s almost impossible for new ideas presented by others to receive any form of consideration. Leaders exhibiting this type of behavior rarely have the ability to keep good people on staff. Employees become exasperated by the leaders inability to consider that someone else can think. Meetings with this type of leader become a lecture vs a give and take session. I have witnessed employees falling asleep in meetings as the leader rambles on and on as if to impress everyone with their knowledge. Employees consider these meetings a waste of time, become reluctant to attend (sometimes communicate reasons that they cannot attend) and often find another place to work.

These are just a few of the behaviors that I have witnessed. Leaders often state to me – “I wish that I had employees who really care about their job, I wish I had employees that I could depend on. I wish my employees could understand what I encounter in trying to keep this business afloat.” I often in turn ask “Is it really the employees that are the problem? Have you considered what role you play in your employees behavior?”

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Internal Communication Does Create Customer Experiences

In my role as an operations consultant, one of my primary goals when on a client assignment is to ascertain the level of inter-departmental communication. I believe this is important as the level of service received by the paying customer is directly impacted by how well internal departments communicate with one another. How does one improve internal communication? Here a few items to consider implementing.

Map Your Internal Communication Processes
I recommend this for the first step as it will clearly identify where inter-departmental hand-offs or dependencies occur. Departments can then clearly see how and when they impact one another. For instance – How does sales effect operations? How does operations affect customer service? How does customer service affect field services? How does field services affect customer service? One can then determine if departmental requirements are being met. This creates the need for cross functional dialogue which leads to the understanding of departmental perspectives and needs. Discussion around what is needed, what the fulfillment of that need should look like, when that need should be provided and how that need should be provided is a typical conversation that takes place after mapping processes.

Develop Internal Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for the Hand-offs or Dependencies
I always suggest that key performance indicators are developed to measure how well departments are servicing one another via hand-offs and dependencies. The goal for each KPI should be set at 100%. For instance – if sales is responsible for gathering specific new customer or prospect information that is to be utilized by others within the company, how often is it actually being done? Or when customer service is tasked with advising customers of field services arrival time, is it in fact taking place? Now this particular recommendation requires an effort to record how well the hand-offs and dependency KPIs are being met, but it’s important to have real data to discuss during inter-departmental communications. KPI results must be discussed on a regular basis. This requirement promotes focused cross functional communication and fosters teamwork within the company. Remember, when internal needs are not fully met, some form of rework is required to properly meet the required standard. Rework is a costly, inefficient use of an employee’s time.

Put Your Internal Customer’s Shoes On
In my opinion, one of the easiest ways to improve internal communication is to spend time with your internal customer as they perform their particular duties. One can then see up close and personal the impact of one’s actions. I feel that this should be a mandatory exercise as it has a three-fold effect:

1. Cross functional communication is once again fostered.

2. Employees gain mutual respect for one another.

3. Employee morale improves. When one feels heard and understood and when one’s concerns are acted upon, one’s morale usually responds in a positive manner.

Want to improve internal communications? Try Mapping Your Internal Process to identify hand-offs and dependencies, Develop Key Performance Indicators for these hand-offs and dependencies and Put Your Internal Customer’s Shoes On. These threes items are sure to create a lot of internal communication!

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Silence is not Golden in Customer Service

I have witnessed this phenomenon more than once during both my corporate career and as a consultant. Team meetings are conducted without employee input. Even when prompted with “Does anyone have questions are comments, employees are reluctant to speak up. The one sign that employees are either afraid of what may happen should they speak up or just don’t care is Silence. This is a sound (or lack thereof) in my opinion, any company or organization should strive to keep far, far away. Silence is not good for your customers nor is it good for your company. Here are a few things that may be contributing to employees’ choice to remain silent.

Organizational Culture
Probably the #1 reason that employees tend to exercise silence in the workplace is due to the culture of the organization. What behaviors do members of management model to their subordinates? Do these behaviors encourage employees to be more open? Are these behaviors conducive to creating a long term positive work environment? Are employees treated with respect when voicing their opinion about the work environment? Should the answer be no to either of these questions, employee silence will inevitably show up in the workplace. Leaders must strive to set the pace in any organization. Management must make sure that they are both approachable and sincere when interacting with their subordinates.

Non-Inclusion of Employees in Decision Making
Employees often have the answers to issues that if utilized, more than likely will result in both a better experience for themselves and customers. When recommendations for change go without acknowledgement or management exhibits a lack of interest, employees eventually shut down. This is another form of silence that should never exist within an organization. Proactively seek out employee input and implement recommendations that make sense. This gives an instant boost to employee morale. Whether they are production or front line employees, their ideas come from a “I do this everyday.” perspective, which should be respected and not taken for granted.

Non-Communication Across Departments
As a consultant, I often run across instances of non-communication across departments within companies. I usually ask both managers and employees why is this the case. “It’s so busy here that we don’t have time to check with them before we do…… is one answer that I hear on a regular basis. When this is the case, the next thing that I usually see is everyone with their “head down” working – just trying to make it through the day. Cross-functional communication must be a priority in order to create the best possible customer and employee experience.

Is employee silence a component of your company’s culture? Take an honest look at what might be contributing to this scenario. Your customers are directly impacted by the silence within your company. Remember – Silence is not golden in customer service.

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