Collaboration is the Key to Process Improvement

Posted by Alex Geray on 2/2/17 12:02 PM

Improve Business Processes Through Communication

Even in a world where you can complete nearly any task with the help of a computer, getting on the same page as your clients and collaborating with your peers will always be the best way to meet your goals. How, where, and when you collaborate can make or break some of your business’ goals.

The best ideas in the world are not going to progress as they should if your lines of communication are a tangled mess and your staff doesn’t have the tools they need to succeed. As an experienced business analyst, I am always looking for ways to bring up productivity and focus on the small details that make a big difference.

If you are feeling like you are being held back but cannot quite figure out why your deliverables are not the streamlined process they should be, then here are a few things to consider when going into the development of a new project.

Symptoms of Inefficient Business Processes

If you are in a leadership role, you know that it is important to achieve balance in your workplace relationships. Your employees are your company, and they have a perspective that you may not be able to understand unless you engage them. At every level, people can identify the roadblocks they encounter in their daily work, but it is not always easy for them to communicate up the ladder for a variety of reasons.

Do your best to pick up on hints to people’s frustrations and issues with the development process that has been laid out for them. This does not mean hounding people for feedback or eavesdropping around the corner from the water cooler. It means trying to get perceptive on where your processes are getting held up and how to best set up your team for success.

Pinpointing the areas where your process needs to improve can be difficult, but here are a few traits of inefficient workflows:

  • Projects not getting completed or being perpetually delayed
  • Managers feel the need to micromanage their staff
  • Employee satisfaction and retention issues
  • Rising stress levels in the workplace
  • Constantly shifting priorities and responsibilities

Essentially, you have to figure out if you are collaborating too much or too little. With too much collaboration you can take away productive work time and create an unnecessary sense of urgency and anxiety. Too little collaboration and you may be missing ways you can best utilize the talents of your team. This is not an easy balance to strike, but it can spark major productivity growth when it is done right.

A professor from the University of Iowa recently found that most collaborative projects contain a single “extra miler,” which is someone who is picking up the slack for the rest of the group. This individual can have a big influence on your processes and how responsibilities get divided. Be aware of this when you are putting together team projects and make sure you are utilizing everyone’s skills.

Prepping for improved processes

Once you have pointed out a few of your spots to improve, it is time to start looking more closely at the lines of communication your team is utilizing. Break it down and examine how everyone is moving information. Are you mostly meeting in person? Are your meetings largely over the phone or over online video chat? How many emails do you send in a day? Are these processes facilitating a consistent work flow and is everyone contributing how they should be? It is time to take an inventory of your current processes and decide what you need, and what can go.

If you have found that you are not getting enough done with your in-person meetings, it is a worthwhile experiment to see what meetings you can consolidate or eliminate all together. Not everything has to be an hour long. Consider using standup meetings, where team members on a single project can gather quickly, roughly 10-15 minutes without anyone sitting down, just to check in and see if anyone needs support. Your managers can scratch their micromanaging itch without bearing down on their staff, and your staff does not feel like valuable work time is needlessly taken from them.

Once you are stuck in a routine, it is all too easy to stay in it because readjusting all your processes sounds like taking on a long list of new problems. At Lewis Fowler, we are ready to take on all those new problems and turn them into new opportunities for our clients.

Ensuring future efficiency

Put most simply, Business Process improvement is a cultural shift that will only work if all your stakeholders are on board with how your business is moving forward. You have to get your leadership team to buy in to the overarching philosophy and that the system in place is the best way to deliver quality work to your clients. It is vital that everyone understands their role on the team, and is ready to tackle their projects feeling informed and supported by their leadership.

Most people take their daily work personally, which is a good thing. But it also means that disrupting routines can rub people the wrong way. Establishing an open, driven workplace starts by making the company culture supports those attributes.

The value of Lewis Fowler is our ability to enhance the strength of others. What do you do best and how can we leverage that to get the most out of your work hours? We are here to support the cultural and behavioral changes that every business needs to thrive.

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Topics: Communication, Process Improvement