A few months ago, while sitting in a project kickoff meeting discussing the definition of project success, the service manager in charge, stood up abruptly. He wandered toward the door, obviously in need of a break, and left the room with his final word on project success, “The only measure I care about is making the application easier to use. Our current applications and tools are too cumbersome. They all needed to be simplified.”
I became increasingly excited as I began to think about that measure of success. While our project team came prepared to walk through every field service metric known to mankind, I was confident on how we needed to proceed. I knew the meeting was going to take an interesting turn, and I was ready to take this challenge head on.
As the team regrouped from our break, the service manager walked back in and took his seat. We started back up and he asked me if I thought we could help. My answer was not a simple yes as you may have thought, it was a “Yes, but….” as I said that, he let out a sigh and looked at me. I finished by saying “Yes, but first, can you tell me about your processes.”
You see most complex applications are caused by a complex process it is trying to support. Many times this is a result of adding a single task and not taking the time to look at the end to end process that needs to consider the new task. Sometimes it's simply because of an aversion to change.
People are averse to change, we all know that. We like to get into a routine and find that change can disrupt the natural flow of our days. process improvement is no different. You will find that many times, the way you do a process is the way you did it years ago. Keep in mind times have changed and so has your business. Look at your business processes as an ongoing task. You don’t have to redo your entire way of doing business, but take a look at a few areas a year and identify ways to simplify.
Once you select an area to work on, REFLECT on the process(es).
- REVIEW your current process and understand what it is trying to accomplish.
- Don’t just assume that the way you understand the purpose of the process is what you think it is.
- EXPERIENCE what your team does, and how they do it.
- When was the last time you spent a day in the life of one of your technicians?
- FEEL the pain, understand what your team doesn't like and what procedures they don't follow.
- Don’t correct and say how they should be doing something. Chances are they know, they don’t like they way it gets done.
- LET GO of personal interests (especially if one of those pain points were your idea to begin with).
- It’s not that your idea in the past wasn’t good, its that business has changed and its time for your next great idea.
- EDUCATE yourself on what others in your industry are doing.
- I once had a boss that said “Copying in College is called plagiarism and it gets you expelled, Copying in business is called benchmarking and it gets you ahead”.
- CHALLENGE your team to push boundaries.
- Just because that is the way its always been done, doesn’t mean it’s right.
- TEACH your team about the new process.
- Don’t implement change and expect everyone to fall in line. Take the time to tell your team about the changes that are coming and ensure that everyone knows when these changes start.
Removing complexity from processes increases productivity and can also increase your team's satisfaction. Process improvement never ends and you will always find a way to do something easier, quicker and faster. As field service continues to evolve, so does its processes.
What areas of complexity are you or your company looking to improve this year?