What happens when you take representatives from the Department for Transport (DfT) and train operating companies (ToCs) and give them a load of LEGO® bricks?
You get slight chaos coupled with a visual, hands on experience of how to improve performance through better processes.
You would have a few questions, no doubt: “How?” or “Why do I care?” and “What makes improving processes so important?”
Well, allow me to explain…
I can answer the second two questions simultaneously. First, what makes improving processes so important is that process-oriented organizations perform better than their less-savvy competitors. Research shows that process-oriented organizations return better financial performances than their peers; they have higher levels of customer satisfaction; and show enhanced levels of product and service quality. Why should you care - other than the benefits listed above? Well, simply put, ignore process improvement at your peril if you want your organization to thrive in the 21st century.
Why the need, then, for process improvement in the DfT? To illustrate this, the workshop took improving a change process as its theme. The group split into teams and each was given 12 LEGO® “trains,” which they had to then pass through the change request process in order to update their liveries.
This process started with the Change Proposers, moving on to the Change Approvers and Parts Supplier, before heading to the Workshop Managers who applied those all-important livery updates, before heading to the Change Auditors for final checks. Sound simple? It should have been, but when matched with intentionally ambiguous instructions, missing data, non-productive tasks and a room layout that doesn’t lend itself to efficient process flows, it was anything but.
The first process bottleneck took little-to-no time to appear at the Change Approver stage. Whether this was due to either misinterpreted or unclear instructions, the fact is that process improvement was already necessary. As the workshop developed, we saw bottlenecks start to build up at all different areas of the change process, which added to the melee and further highlighted the necessity for process improvement.
It was interesting to see the different tactics employed by teams in an effort to be more efficient. Changes were made within teams, but these were always done in silos. For example, some teams took it upon themselves to try and get batches of trains through the change process in one go; this just offset the bottleneck to another stage in the process, due to a misallocation of resources. It was only when end-to-end improvements were implemented that we were able to see the change process perform better.
Reallocating one of the team members to the Part Supplier stage, coupled with a complete overhaul of the room layout helped quickly achieve optimal flow between stages, and made the change process notably more efficient. What was different about this approach? It wasn’t done in silos. Teams worked together to improve the internal process and became far more efficient.
What might this mean for you in the real business world? You could have all the right people, but they might not necessarily be in the right places. Just think, do you work seamlessly with other areas of the business to implement fundamental changes efficiently? Could you adapt to a wide-scale change – such as the upcoming EU General Data Protection Regulation – if required? What could a simple rule or software upgrade do to help improve?
Clearly, the example we used here is hypothetical, but it translates in numerous ways, and not just for public sector organizations. Can you implement perfectly efficient and effective ways of working without transparency and collaboration across your end-to-end processes?
Unlikely. You can, however, be equipped to make transformational and continuous improvement, reaping the aforementioned reward of returning better financial performance than your peers.
See how Software AG can help your organisation improve performance in the digital world through process excellence.