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).
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?
Nate Zaleski, Great article! All the points apply to 'process improvement' effort in general in any context. As stated in the beginning of your article, it starts with this all-important question: 'tell me about your processes' and the follow-up question 'what it is trying to accomplish'. Knowing the answers to the 'whats' and the 'whys' will lead to the 'hows' of process improvement.
Another aspect to consider here would be the feedback from those who execute the processes on a daily basis. Asking them 'Name the top-3 things (or even one thing) you would like to change in the current process and why & how' will be a good way to go about improving / simplifying processes. Because, it makes everybody involved a key stakeholder in ensuring process adoption.