Make The Fix Stick... Institutionalize Your Processes
Has this ever happened in your company?
You fix a problem and put a process in place to ensure that it won't reoccur. But sooner or later, it's back.
Why? Because the fix didn't stick. How do you make it stick? Institutionalize the fix. Institutionalize the new process.
Follow these six guidelines...
1) Start with a good process.
In my December 2015 newsletter I explained that a good process means things happen consistently and efficiently - and with no surprises. Check back here
for a review regarding how to put a good process in place.
Additionally, ensure there are no surprises as a result of someone doing more than they should by establishing proper limits of authority, a concept outlined in my February 2015 newsletter
2) Establish a formal policy.
In other words, develop principals, rules and guidelines that frame the process. Make sure the policy is readily accessible by all employees, particularly
first line supervisors and above in your organization.
3) Put procedures in place that support the policy.
Procedures detail the process - they describe
it - so people know what to follow. Here as well, these procedures should be widely accessible across the organization.
4) Develop "desktop procedures."
Desktop procedures are the step-by-step details for executing a given process. Think of these as how you would explain the process to somebody who was covering for an employee out on vacation. Have the employees who actually execute the process detail, in their own words, how the work is done.
Without desktop procedures, new employees and fill-ins will make inadvertent, minor changes that can be significant when accumulated over time. For processes related to repetitive transactions, consider standardizing these desktop procedures across a company or operating group.
5) Train, train, train.
This can be as simple as having a covering person sit with someone before going on vacation, all the way up to formal training with dedicated staff, programs and facilities. However it's accomplished, don't short change this critical step.
After all, without training, how will employees really
know how to follow a process or procedure?
When I was in the car rental business, for example, corporate put in place a new purchasing and disbursement process that was supported by a new computer system. The company COO (a short, squat man known to all as "The Round Man") said we didn't need to spend money on training in this case. I disagreed with The Round Man and convinced my boss to have our training department train anyone who purchased anything or was involved in paying bills on the new process and system. The net result was that ours was the only region to successfully implement the new process and system without experiencing excruciating pain and cost.
To ensure compliance, as well as to be certain that the process is being executed as designed, you'll need to establish a system for conducting periodic audits. A few more pointers on getting this done:
- Like lots of things in an organization, leading by doing helps to institutionalize a process. So when visiting the troops, check to see that the new process is followed and understood. Make sure senior leadership follows it and compels others to do the same. Since senior leaderships deals with policy and process exceptions, they need to make clear that they are dealing with exceptions as exceptions. Otherwise, the rank and file may misinterpret their actions as ignoring the process.
- Make sure senior management doesn't undermine the process by inadvertently doing a subordinate's job. Typically, this happens two ways. First, some micromanage and intervene in the work below. When they do that, they insert themselves in the process in a way that was not intended. The opposite happens too: Subordinates kick a decision upstairs when they want senior management to do their job.
In both instances, the process is undermined because it doesn't work as intended ... and everyone sees that. (See my newsletter on limits of authority for a solution.)
- For bigger companies, establish a process to put in place processes. I know, that reeks of corporate speak along the lines of the United Airlines CEO trying to "re-accommodate" a forcibly bumped paying passenger. But, an established way to put new or changed processes in place is essential once your organization reaches a certain size.
- Do what is appropriate for your size, how often the process will be used and the dollar value that flows through the process. For really small companies, desk top procedures may be sufficient since the owner/CEO makes most decisions anyway. Expensive training and audits won't pay off if the process is used by only a handful of people or the dollar value involved is small.
Fixing problems is, of course, important. But making the fix stick is critical.