Business process improvement isn’t just about working smarter. It’s also about being smarter with the words you use. In fact, if you use the wrong words, process improvement won’t happen.
A good example of well-intentioned but poorly-worded business process improvement advice appears in an op-ed in the Jamaica Gleaner which begins plainly enough:
At the heart of every company lies an open secret: only a handful of core processes create fundamental value for customers – or stakeholders, in the public sector. These processes, which have a start, an end, and a number of steps in between, are executed by people or computers. They differ based on the industry.
That all sounds fine, right? The author continues:
Non-core activities such as advertising, human resources and accounting support these processes.
They are non-core because they support the company, but they don’t actually deliver value directly to customers.
Imagine how you’d feel if you worked in one of those departments? You just got told: “you don’t actually deliver value directly to customers.”
It’s absolutely true that a business lives and dies by its processes. But if you want to talk about business process improvement, the first conversation has to be with real people about real value.
Every employee and every department provides value. But if you’re not thinking about how that value is provided and how value is generated through repeatable business processes, your company will have problems.
So instead of using words like “business process improvement” start the conversation with “how do we provide value?”
Once people start to agree on what is valuable, they can agree on what is not valuable. And that’s where real process improvement can begin: by eliminating what everyone agrees doesn’t need to be done.