“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
This is an old cliché that fits some applications in life. However, operations management is not one of them. Process improvement needs to be continuous, and companies need to stay on top of the changing environment. Certainly things can be working right now, but businesses cannot afford to wait until the processes are actually broken in order to fix them. In today’s age, think about cell phones and how often people are updating what they carry. Do phones that are a few years old still work? Usually, but are they as fast? Most likely not. There are countless analogies that fit this situation. In the end, you don’t want to be able to describe your business processes as working, but outdated.
“We’ve Always Done It That Way”
The step before keeping old processes around because they get the job done, albeit not as effectively as possible, is not even taking the time to evaluate operations processes. Tradition is great in some regards, but not when there is room for process improvement in a business. Sure, the way something has always been done may have been the best solution when it was started, but that will not always be the case. Do not be afraid to think outside the box and see if there is a better way to solve the everyday business problems that you face.
Having People Do Things Just To Do It
If you think about the work related things you do during your day, do they all have a purpose? If the answer is no, the next question is why are you spending time on things that do not have a defined purpose? If you think about that concept, it should also apply to the workers you help manage. Everything they do should have a purpose and goal they are trying to achieve. People feel more empowered when their job truly helps contribute to the overall success of the business. On the other side of the coin, it is easy for people to become dissatisfied with their job if they feel like they are wasting their time on things that do not matter, or only have minimal value.
One of the more frequent cases of this comes from cleaning logs. I have heard multiple people tell me that their paper logs just go in the trash at the end of the day, or that they were not even sure what happened to them because they never discuss them. As an employee, what is the value of doing something that will never be checked or used, even if it is as simple as marking something on a piece of paper? Now, if those logs are maintained, organized, and can help prevent losses from a slip and fall lawsuit, the seemingly mundane task has value. If your processes already have value, but your employees don’t know the value, taking the time to help them understand the importance of their work is part of the process improvement. If your processes don’t provide value (like cleaning logs that go in the garbage), either modify the process so that they do drive value, or eliminate them.