Welcome to the series of How To:Quality. Your 3 min guide on how Quality Professionals address various business needs to drive Improvement and Governance.

Quality Professionals, regardless of the sector they work in, strive to help businesses achieve their strategic objectives. They do this in various ways: be it deploying governance frameworks, implementing improvement strategies, or delivering assurance programmes.

In this post I talk about how Quality Professionals can help businesses understand the processes they have so they can ensure operational resilience.

How to: Understand a Process

Before I talk about process mapping, I would like to highlight the importance of understanding processes for businesses. You cannot improve your operations and become more efficient if you do not know your baseline. You cannot change and adapt to emerging changes if you do not know your baseline. You cannot fix problems if you do not know your baseline. Your baseline is your current as-is process that is operationally followed by one team or more.

This post is not going to explore how to design your process map using digital solutions. It will explore the efforts put before that visual design comes into place. Quality Professionals can help you understand a process by:

  1. Understanding What takes place operationally
  2. Mapping Who does what
  3. Clarifying When & How Long it takes to do what
  4. Outlining How each step is done

1. Understanding what takes place operationally

Being inquisitive by nature is a skill set most Quality Professionals posses. They are equipped with the skillset to ask questions they are useful to understand key activities. The questions are focused on understanding the relevant core activities that take pace to move a process from point A to point B. This step usually takes place in a form of interviews and on the job shadowing. The shadowing part is a powerful activity that sheds a lot of light on all the work involved in a process.

2. Mapping who does what

As a natural progression from understanding what activities take place in a process, the next step is to understand who does what. Spanning from a wide variety of stakeholders, including external customers, defining the ‘who’ brings an additional layer of clarity. The operational baselines starts to become clearer. At this point, Quality professionals have identified all the activities involved in the process and all the stakeholders involved in it.

💡Tip: in process mapping, ‘swim lane’ is a good tool to use. It shows the process in a different lanes visually, and the hand offs between all the involved stakeholders. SIPOC is another tool that helps build a process in a swim lane view. SIPOC stands for suppliers, inputs, processes, outputs, customer.

3. Clarifying When & How Long it takes to do What

In my opinion, this is a fun activity (not easy but fun). If you are in the services industry (financial, retail, or any sector), you may be familiar with the service charter. A charter organisations and teams publish announcing their commitment to provide a certain level of service. These charters are usually accompanied by service level agreements (SLAs). For example: we commit to respond to all queries within 48 hours. Usually, organisations need to understand ‘when and how long’ their process steps take so they can commit to their service charter.

Clarifying when each step in a process takes place helps 2 objectives:

  • Understanding the sequence of steps which clarifies dependencies of certain activities
  • Understanding if certain steps are time specific. For example, step 3 must happen 3 days after step 2 is completed

Understanding how long each step takes is important for a team to define their SLAs. Usually, this is when Quality Professionals determine any ‘dead time’ in a process – alternatively known as waste. Here is an example from the pre-digital world:

In one retail bank, the activity of improving customer experience started for opening bank accounts and issuing debit cards. It was identified through this exercise when a customer applied for a new bank account, they need to wait 5 days to obtain their account details and receive their debit card. Why? Because it takes a day for the mail to be delivered from branches into the head office department which issues cards. Then it takes a day to issue the cards, followed by a day to deliver the mail back into branches. Solution: introduce a digital system that enhances this process and removes the need to send mail from one location to the next. Even go one step further, provide branches with machines to issue debit cards on the spot.

4. Outlining How each step is done

Going back to the starting point: a baselines is essential for businesses to drive improvements, efficiencies, and adapt to a changing environment. Quality Professionals can help businesses outline how activities take place in a process. This is what some businesses refer to standard operating procedure (SOP). Organisations who have such documentations ironed out tend to build team capabilities and are arguably better at training their workforce.

💡Tip: depending on the sector you work in, an extensive documentation of your processes could become an administrative nightmare, and a hinderance to improvement. Quality Professionals can help you determine what is required for documentation for a sustained and successful operational without it being extensive.

In summary, if you answer the key ‘WH’ questions , you would have a solid understanding of your operating model.

Finally, don’t forget your why! Teams have a higher rate of success when they belong and take ownership of the work they do. This can be obtained when they know the reason behind the work they do and how it contributes to the bigger picture. Quality professionals are better equipped – due to the nature of their wider business interaction – to define the why and help connect the dots. Make sure you utilise that exposure.

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If you would like to see a particular topic covered in this series, please get in touch and let me know the topic or scenario, and I will do my best to help. You can get in touch on your preferred platform 👇

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