Everyone is an expert at something. In any kind of process, people are experts at their part of the process, but usually not the whole process. Those people become managers and begin to lose all perspective.* As I discussed in a previous post, teamwork is finally important to creating the best outcome. So if you are looking to improve or create a process, get those experts together and charge them with making things better.
By expert, I don’t necessarily mean someone who has PhD from MIT or Stanford. I mean the person who does a specific task every day, is good at it, and therefore familiar with many of the intricacies. I compare each of these people to a runner on a good relay team. Individually, each is very fast. You don’t have to work on the running part. The key place to look is for the handoffs. And where most of the efficiency will be gained or lost.
The issue can be as little as differing expectations between two people in the process. Does the first runner place the baton in the hand of the second runner or does the second runner take the baton? Someone on your customer service staff requests account maintenance from a coworker in operations. The first person expects the work to be done within 2 hours, but the second person has direction to get it done by the end of the next business day. That is going to lead to conflict and poor customer service. Even if those times were reversed, which is a better outcome, the customer’s understanding of your capabilities is below what you can provide.
In this scenario, it makes sense to have what a discussion between the between those two people to equalize those expectations, and just as importantly, find out WHY they have those expectations. In my experience, this is the conversation leads to a process that will now take an hour to complete. And it will be replicable to additional people and processes. That cannot be done if the two parties are not having an open discussion on that specific process. This same holds true for more complicated process is where there are more parties involved. The more steps, the more people included (up to a point), the more opportunity you have to make improvements. Make sure your group has knowledge of all steps, though, otherwise it will make it hard to create that positive outcome that you want.
So get those people together, let them talk and watch for the magic to happen. Your job is to keep the open dialogue going.
*I am kidding about manager abilities. Most managers I have worked with have been great contributors and have a high level view that is important when working towards solutions.