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Process Methods at Aragon Gray


Cindy Tonkin - May 20, 2009

Recent brain-based research points to why involving people – and getting them to come up with the ways to improve processes – makes the change stick better, create less trauma and last much longer.

Process improvement is successful when three factors are aligned:

  • processes are clear (whether new or existing)
  • managers support the change
  • people have behaviours to support the change.

For this reason, any process improvement or productivity improvement program we do includes at least 3 components:

Component 1: Process mapping

The first component is process mapping. It makes sure the processes are clear. Process mapping outlines the existing process, and then goes on to discover new ways of meeting the same outcomes.

This usually takes around 4 half day sessions per process, and involves a group of people across the entire process chain. Groups can vary in number from 3 to twenty something. The more people involved the more ownership of the process.

The first stage is to map the process as it exists. Clients who have been through this process always wish they’d videoed the session – newer players learn how the process works from start to end, and even established staff are surprised at what they didn’t know about how the existing process works.

The map is created on coloured post-its onto a wall chart. Process maps often end up several metres long, winding around conference room walls.

As we map the process we also note any problems with the process, disagreements about how it should or does work and any thing else which may give hints as to how to change the process later. These are noted on “hot” coloured post-it notes. If documentation is involved or a hot issue, we’ll note which documents are involved at each point in the process.

Process improvement ideas come from a number of brainstorming techniques, taking into account the hot post-its and any other factors (eg joining two areas together, incorporating a new product, whatever change is occurring).

Component 2: Management coaching for systemic change

The second component in the change process is management coaching.

Research shows that staff trust most their direct supervisor or manager. Instead of an outside consultant building sufficient rapport and trust to create change, we work with the the existing relationship between manager and staff. This is quicker and creates a long-standing result.

When a manager supports a change or a training intervention, it is more likely to go in. If the manager feels unsupported, or too busy or too tired or too anything to reinforce change, it can grind to a halt. Coaching addresses these systemic issues by dealing with individual manager’s systemic issues. If a manager doesn’t prioritise and follow up on process improvements, they don’t happen. Issues addressed in management coaching sessions include time management, job satisfaction, dealing with performance issues, motivating self and others. The exact nature of coaching session content will depend highly on each manager, where they are in their career, their level of education and personality style. Find other exec coaching issues here.

Coaching is done in person or by phone, as works for the managers involved. It starts before the process mapping, and continues alongside and past it.

How many sessions involved depends on how many managers and areas are involved in the process improvement. As a guideline each manager would need around 5 coaching sessions across the length of the process improvement project.

Component 3: Behavioural change training

Thirdly, we add behaviours to the mix. The behavioural change component is a training course tailored to “upgrade” or replace existing behaviours. This would target staff as well as managers.

Examples of behaviours needed to create change include motivating self and others, managing time, running effective meetings, gathering information through questions, suggesting not directing, allocating and following-up on work, delegating, dealing with customer feedback.

There may also be some skills gaps between how the old process works and how the new one works. For example if the new process asks people who were order-takers to become outbound sales calls (for warm leads), then there may be a need to give them some basic sales skills. We address these gaps in the training.

We determine the group’s needs by working with participants as the project progresses and through a formal training needs analysis.

The number of workshops depends on the size of the process and breadth of the skills gaps. Eight half day workshops over three months is a guideline.

The course includes these activities:

  • Identifying how to discover opportunities in the workplace, where things could be quicker, more interesting, better for customers/clients, less difficult
  • Running a simulation to acquire more skills in innovating and improving, to recognise existing skills, give a vocabulary for talking about improvement and tools for measuring
  • Nominating a workplace-based application to practice the skills
  • Reporting back (at the second session) on the workplace application, allowing for input on how to improve the improvement process even more

Coming to the course will:

  • Give staff an impetus to do something about dormant ideas
  • Inspire high-potential staff
  • Create bottom-up change where it’s most needed
  • Improve processes, so the workplace is happier, more harmonious, more productive, more interesting

Cindy.

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