To put things as simply and bluntly as possible, we go into business to make money. With that as a purpose, it should follow that anything we are doing in our business that does not further that cause is inefficient and wasteful. This is a rather simplistic view, but it is useful when one approaches the question of how to optimize business processes.
Consulting firms around the world come into an organization with the assumed credibility to make the company work better and make a higher profit. To do that, they almost always begin with simple questions that we just normally do not think to ask ourselves, and they obtain surprising responses. It is from the amazing grasp of the obvious that we find the much-discussed low hanging fruit or simple fixes.
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Management consulting is the dedicated process of identifying that which should be eliminated and that which should be emphasized. An interesting approach frequently used in the initial assessment of an organization looks an awful lot like the company suggestion program. Most of these programs have the ubiquitous suggestion box affixed to the wall near each of the required bulletin boards with the safety material and company policies. While all the data affixed there are important, they are rarely paid much attention.
There is some special feel to having an outside consulting firm come in and ask employees what they would do to improve things around the business that elicits responses that the contributor would never write down and put in the suggestion box. It could be because they do not believe anyone ever checks the boxes, or that they think any suggestion put in it would be simply rejected or ignored. These internal suggestions are a gold mine for improving efficiency. If the idea itself is not spectacular, the fact that one of their ideas is being implemented gives the motivation to ensure it works.
In sequence, the management consultant will likely request each section, group or directorate document every process they currently use. It is important to gather them all, no matter how insignificant, even the process for acquiring supplies, because everything that is done takes time and resources in some fashion. Once this difficult step has been accomplished the first round of efficiency sees the consulting firm experts helping managers identify which of the processes, if any, can be eliminated or combined.
The next part in assessment is to flow out each process, identifying step by step what needs to be done in each before the product or service is moved to the next. Identifying what is created in each part of the process ensure there is agreement on the beginning and end to each subset. Many management consultants will also have the team identify the time it takes in each place where it is possible to measure. Another round of removing waste is accomplished as obvious wasteful events become obvious in the mechanism of documenting them.
After this documentation is complete, it is time to allow all the employees and subordinate managers time to review what has been recorded. Here, more often than is expected, management consulting experts find disconnections between what leadership believes is happening and what is really occurring. In addition, those things that were eliminated as unnecessary in leadership’s view often surprise the rank and file who were convinced they were necessary and took a lot of time and energy to accomplish.
AT this point it is imperative to capture thoughts and ideas about ways these final core processes might be attacked differently in order to make them faster, less expensive or unnecessary, be it whole processes or incremental pieces of the work. In this manner, many companies have discovered how to optimize business processes without spending a tremendous amount of money and improving morale and productivity at the same time.