Formalising processes as a means of improving productivity and motivation among workforces

One of our clients approached us to review one of their department’s internal processes. Rapid changes in working habits had detrimentally affected the team’s internal communication and the desire was expressed to address some issues that had been on the back burner for a while. This project not only concerned formalising processes, but also improving the understanding of roles and responsibilities. As a result, the employees’ positioning in the firm became clearer, which also had a positive impact on other departments.

Kicking off the project

The project was kicked off by assembling all representatives of the steering structure to launch the change project officially. The aim was to ensure everyone was aligned to the project’s objectives and that there was complete clarity about everyone’s roles and responsibilities within the project. It also gave a first impression of the prevailing team dynamics and any potential resistance.

Conducting interviews

By giving employees the opportunity to participate in face-to-face interviews, you get the chance to talk openly about problems, weaknesses, and opportunities for improvement. Not every company has an open feedback culture, so this provides employees with the opportunity to let off some pressure.

It is however important to maintain the status quo; the main contact before conducting the interviews is likely to be the project sponsor, who has every interest that the project succeeds. The first information you will gather may therefore be biased.

In the case of our client’s project, the main aim was to assess the individual processes and main activities from several different perspectives. This helped us to gather initial clues regarding the responsibilities that still needed to be defined and provided valuable insights into any possible blocking factors could develop in the course of the project. In such a situation, it is important to make sure that the interview partners can talk openly and honestly about everything. The results from the discussions must be treated confidentially, so that there is no risk of any negative consequence for the individual.

Defining roles and responsibilities

In this context, there are always two sides to a coin. On the one hand, there is the role itself, which needs to be filled, then there is the understanding of one’s own individual responsibilities – does this always match with the way others perceive you?

For this project, MindForest proceeded to fill in a RACI-Matrix. The insights already gathered during the interviews were particularly helpful and provided invaluable in formation about the activities covered by the department. These were subsequently discussed with the participants, which had the positive effect that several subjects were addressed, which would not otherwise have been on the agenda. Inconsistencies could be clarified as to who is responsible for what exactly. In addition, dependencies on other departments became more obvious.

Formalising processes

When formalising processes, it is recommended to first focus on business processes; activities that are linked to the company’s core business. Management and support processes can be tackled at a later stage – after all it’s the business processes that create value for the customer.

Make sure to include all relevant stakeholders during the process design phase – employees may have different views on how a process unfolds. Day-to-day operations may not allow them to take the time to discuss their different understandings and opposing views on certain aspects.

During this specific project, the SIPOC-method was used, which is widely applied within the Six Sigma world. It helps you to set up a high-level process map, which comes in handy when no processes have been formalised to date.

Furthermore, we recommend including all departments affected by the output or having an influence on the input of said process. In this way, inconsistencies can be eliminated right from the start and a better understanding can be established between the teams.

Visualising results

Simply formalising the processes is one thing, but as mentioned above, the challenge is mainly about discussing the different perspectives. The greatest learning effect is achieved when the validated processes are made available to the staff in a visual form, such as a cartography. During this project, an interactive PDF document was created, which enabled the employees to click through the respective interfaces of the processes.

Key take aways

It’s not just about processes being written somewhere afterwards. Such an endeavor is primarily about employees talking to each other and understanding each other’s work better. 

As soon as you notice that there are operational discrepancies between the respective departments, such workshops are an excellent opportunity; so make sure that constructive discussions are the order of the day. Don’t digress too much into details but try to keep everyone involved in the conversation.

Do you also want to review the internal processes of one of your departments?

We are happy to diagnose your organisation’s existing processes, assess your current challenges and set up a project adapted to your needs. Please contact us at info@mindforest.com.