If you are an executive or a manager of a large team, I’m sure you have been approached more than once with a request to add headcount. If the reason for the headcount is keeping up with business volume, that’s usually a sign that it is time for a process review workshop.
One of our clients recently received one of these requests and held a workshop to review one of their internal processes. As a result, they found that they did not need more people, but in fact, they would require fewer, once a more efficient process could be put in place. The freed-up team members would become available to move into new or expanded roles. Additionally, controls and quality would actually improve if fewer hands were needed to complete the daily tasks. This result is typical.
The goal of the workshop is to validate the request for headcount, which might be valid. But it is also possible that the business process has become overcomplicated or laborious. It is also an opportunity to evaluate new technologies that could automate some of the current steps and reduce the pressure on the existing team.
The workshop attendees should include representatives from every aspect of the process that might drive the workload. Often this means that sales, fulfillment, operations, finance / accounting, and technology should be present. The right number of participants depends on the complexity and size of the process under review. Make sure the people present possess all the process knowledge, without sending a blanket invitation to every department. For very large processes, participant may join and leave the meeting to address urgent matters, but workshops are most effective when everyone can be there to learn the entire end to end process.
These workshops often yield a process cost reduction of 10-30% and a time reduction of 20-35%.
Start off the conversation by explaining the goals as stated above. Then, have the team that owns the first step in the process, explain how they do their work. We are interested in hearing any step that potentially affects someone upstream or downstream. If a step obviously has no impact on anyone else (“first, I get a fresh coffee”) then ask the speaker(s) to move on. As the speaker explains a step, other attendees should feel entitled to jump in and ask clarifying questions. The expectation is that all attendees should understand the process, so questions are important. Likewise, it is desirable to ask questions, like: “can that be done another way, such as ….” In this example, the assumption is that the other way would be a faster or a better alternative, otherwise, why ask?
Nominate someone in the room to capture the good suggestions for later. Once the attendees have discussed the entire process, it is time to revisit all the captured suggestions and ask two questions about each one:
· How much time would that save?
· How much time or effort would it take to implement that?
Not every suggestion needs to involve technology, although some will. Once you have discussed the ideas and have a rough idea of their benefits and costs, you are ready to prioritize and to assign implementation tasks. The team should meet periodically to review progress and success.
How often should you hold these workshops? Realistically, a process should be revisited once or twice a year. In more dynamic environments or where volumes tend to grow rapidly, teams may elect to discuss the process once a month or even once a week. If the team meets frequently, the length of the meetings usually decreases, since attendees become very familiar with the overall workflow.
Based on our experience, these workshops often yield a process cost reduction of 10-30% and a time reduction of 20-35%. These results are clearly significant and should encourage you to try this in your organization.
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