In LEAN terminology there are seven or eight types of waste that you can have any process, depending on which dialect you are following. The eighth type, that is not always included in the traditional list, is Underutilization Of People. My feeling is that this is perhaps the most insidious type of waste because it is extremely easy to overlook and often leads to the other types of waste.
I have worked in the healthcare, manufacturing, banking, and software development industries. In each of those, the greatest resource for improving processes has been people. No one, no matter how experienced or knowledgeable, can completely assess a multi-step process and determine all of the nuances. However, put together a small group of people, who are all currently involved and represent a knowledgeable subset, and the solutions can be amazing.
In my current role, I am charged with implementing policies and processes that help our customers and therefore us as an organization. I can take my best guess about how to accomplish that, but it is much more effective if I consult with the people who have two if I consult with people involved in all stages of a process and ask them to help design it. In fact, I would hazard to say that’s without that step, the change in process or a new process has very little chance to succeed.
The degree to which everyone has input varies from issue to issue, but generally, I try to get as much input as possible from all relevant parties. And I think the real key is that I try to have them share their thoughts with each other as much as possible. Designing an end to end flow with all of the people involved makes for a far superior process than if it is done in bits and pieces.
This may seem overly complicated. There are too many people involved. After all, too many cooks will ruin the dinner. Given the proper preparations and expectations, however, this can be a very smooth and quick process. Especially after it has been utilized a few times. The buy in, ownership, and problem resolution that occur at the before implementation save a very disproportionate amount of time that otherwise would have been spent on corrective action. And it prevents a lot of what is usually incorrectly called unforeseen problems.
There’s a book called the Phoenix Project, about a company going through some major issues. But at the idea from the book that applies here is that all owners of different stages of a process are involved from the beginning so that they had shared input from the start. This allows for great interaction between the product development team, software development teams, sales, marketing, and IT and leads to a huge reduction in problems and errors. This information and much more about it is all nicely detailed at IT Revolution Press.