Is Your Organisation Opportunity Blind?
Blog: Colin Crofts - Business Process Improvement
“In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king” – Desiderius Erasmus
Over the last 10 years I’ve worked with businesses across dozens of industries. I’ve improved almost every conceivable process that exists in organisations. When I go into these organisations as a consultant I quickly look to understand the current state. When I do so I work with every person involved in the process. No matter what industry or size of organisation I hear the same two comments:
- “I didn’t realise the process was so complicated!”
- “You do that? Oh we do that too!”
In business processes staff are naturally focussed on their part of the process – that’s their job after all. They think that if they do their part of the puzzle well everything will be good in the world, but this is not always the case. Over time, with the best of intentions staff try to improve their part of the process. Their part may get better, but they do not always consider the impacts to other parts of the process (what we called “siloed thinking”). This can lead to de-optimisation of the overall process. Additional steps add complexity and cost and are frequently not in the best interests of the customer.
Unfortunately these changes frequently become habitual and the process is rarely looked at holistically. Even those organisations with process excellence teams who are tasked with improving processes fall under the spell of “that’s the way we do it, because that’s the way we’ve always done it”. It takes courage and a willingness to change to challenge this state, so I admire those who say “can we do things another way” and take the leap of faith required to bring someone in to provide a new perspective. But my experience of staff doing this is sadly rare.
It’s hard for these staff to be truely objective because they still have to work with the people after the improvement exercise, so there is a certain reserved trepidation with internal improvement teams. But to achieve true transformative change, organisations can’t be afraid to hold back.
Often consultants and process analysts are viewed as highly paid pains in the posterior – and sometimes we are, for we bring insight and an ethos that change is a good thing. Organisations and human beings are highly change resistant by nature. Like our favourite seat on the bus or train or that old pair of slippers we so love to wear it is more comfortable to stay with what we know and love than to look for something new. But out there in the business world there are countless opportunities to reduce costs and improve customer experience – you just have to be brave enough look objectively.
But the problem is, organisations either don’t want to look, are afraid to look or simply lack the expertise to know how to do so – and this has long-term effects on both their culture and their ability to succeed. Companies that are winning the battles against their competitors aren’t afraid to look into the darkness to find the light… but sometimes it’s more effective to find someone with a torch!