A process analysts' role, like many others, is rarely limited to its title and often bleeds into other practices, such as Change Management. When a process consultant appears at a client, sometimes they are told directly "I want to improve process X's throughput, process Y's turnover rate, and process z's cost". More often than not though, they are told "I want to improve all my processes". The consultant is then forced to ask, "Well, have you identified what your processes are? What do you want to improve about them?" The answers here are usually "No", and "Everything".
This is when it's worthwhile to take a step back. A time to ask bigger questions – "Why do you want to improve your processes? What are your biggest pain points as a company? What are the overall goals for the company?" These are of course strategic questions but they need to be known so that you can scope the processes you will focus on and drive towards improvements that align with the overall company goals.
So far this seems straight forward, but often the answers you receive are far from simple. The ‘next step' depends on the answers to these questions, if they can be answered at all. They almost always require an in-depth conversation and can drastically change the direction of your process engagement. While you may be expecting to use your Lean Six Sigma knowledge to reduce waste and lower variance in the process you might hear pain points like, "All of our departments don't communicate well. It takes a long time for our accounting division to process things submitted department X. Department Y says they can't perform their job because their upstream Department Z is giving them bad data. Etc…"
Immediately your analytical mind starts racing towards solutions:
- There needs to be more meetings between departments; or less meeting and a better communication tool.'
- ‘There needs to be time studies done to see why accounting has such a hard time with Department X's work.‘
- ‘There needs to be controls put in place so upstream sources can't enter bad data.'
Will these really fix the issue though? How will you make these changes stick? You may have laid out some of the tasks that need to be performed but it will certainly behoove you to ask why these things are issues. It is important to establish the root cause so that your solution is a real resolution and not just a temporary answer. You need to answer the age old question:
I recently worked on a project where our SME and project champion started to give us answers like, "Well Barbara from Accounting hates Bill from Department X. Department Y and Z have just never gotten along. I think departments wait until the last minute to accomplish tasks so they appear to working harder. I don't think people pass along the best data even though they have it because they want the other departments to be behind."
This is when our team realized, that while our initial task assessment would certainly get us towards the development of better future state processes, they were really looking to change their company culture. Changing a company's culture is considerably harder than changing any single process and our expertise was in process improvement. Luckily, we had people with the aptitude to do this. Our project had already strayed away from Process Improvement practices and bleed into the Strategic practices; we were now delving into Organizational Change Management (OCM) practices. We had embarrassed that problems are solved holistically and not just using one approach.
Our team was able to enlist the help of OCM Specialists and start to identify areas we should be focusing on. They helped shine a light on many aspects of the company we may have missed while swimming around in its individual processes. We issued surveys, held focus groups, and performed individual interviews so that we could collect information from all parties in the form where they felt most comfortable. The information was used to identify why process steps were breaking down and distinguish the history impacting the working relationships across departments. The team was able to bake in working expectations of its people that align with corporate values into the future state workflows. Instead of handing over deliverables at the end of the project that amounted to the current and future state workflows, along with a list of recommendations and their impact, we were able to provide so much more.
Our team was able to give them a transition plan, perform a change readiness assessment, change impact analysis, and recommend that they bring in a change management consultant to help the project champions and sponsors guide the ‘people' aspect of the transition into future state. This aided the move beyond the negative social aspects of the past and adjusted the culture of the company as they move into the future.
This effort reinforced how closely Process Engineering and Change Management are related and the need for Process Analysts to have a solid understanding of Organizational Change Management to deliver high quality and sustainable solutions to clients.