One of the challenges of process improvement initiatives is getting the subject matter experts (SMEs) to think outside of the box. Quite often, people defend existing processes even though they know that there is a better way to do it. I often hear statements like "sales insists we do it this way", "we can't expect our customers to change their processes", and my favorite, "we don't have time". We need to get out of our old habits of living under constraints of legacy rules and start challenging why these processes exist and see if they still support today's business.
So when people declare that "sales insist we do it this way" we should find out why. What business reason does this rule apply? What is the cost of this business decision? Is there a better and more cost effective way to do this? What would it take for this rule to change?
When people say "we can't expect our customers to change their processes", do we know that for sure or are we making assumptions? Have we engaged our customers in a discussion about process improvement? Are they happy with the existing processes? Before we write off any process improvements we should first ask the questions.
When people say "we don't have time", do they realize that this excuse is the underlying reason why the processes are ineffective to begin with? Always taking the short cuts leads to ineffective and non-value added processes that waste company time and money. If you don't take the time now, don't expect to find time later to fix it.
In an effort to break the bad habits of old, we must constantly educate people on the value of process improvement and the true costs of waste and low value processes. When people resist changing an obviously inefficient process, you owe it to your company to not give in without at least asking some questions. Here are some questions to ask:
- What percentage of time does this occur? (does the 80-20 rule apply?)
- How frequently does this occur? (are we addressing something that happens infrequently?)
- Does this apply to all customers or a few? (are we addressing our high or low value customers?)
- If we were starting from scratch, would we still do it this way?
- What problem does this solve?
Over time, the users will experience the power of process improvement as they work on new systems that leverage BPMS tools. The more hands on time they get with the tools the more they will see the benefits in the form of ease of use, visibility into the workflow, assess to information, and improved quality. When you first launch into your BPM initiative, these benefits are not as obvious. The best way to break them of bad habits is to quantify the costs of the waste. You will not always be able to convince people of a better way, but if you simply accept defeat without asking the questions, you may miss a huge opportunity to make a significant impact to the bottom line.