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James Adams

Akcela Ltd.


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Identifying Outdated Processes and How To Redesign


The Bicycle Book

Like all good stories, the bicycle book may be real, or simply told to highlight a point. I personally was told the story of the bicycle book in a lecture whilst studying for my MBA. Whether its roots are in fact, or fiction, it highlights the point perfectly.

So the tale starts, a consultant walked into an office to meet with the manager of the site to discuss their project. As they sat patiently,  they noticed, as the staff members came into the office, those who biked into the building signed the bicycle book. Upon enquiring about the reasons behind this at reception the reason for this, they were informed that once completed the book must be sent over to HR, but did not know why. At HR, it was uncovered that the completed books were stored in the files, this is the way it had always been done. Through further digging, it came back to a time where those that cycled were given a lunch entitlement, but that had long elapsed.

The bicycle book served no purpose, nor meaning, it created no value and was simply an action and really a waste of resource. Whilst this is the extreme end of a process gone wrong, it serves a reminder that we must always ensure that the steps we are taking and processes we keep are fit for purpose.

Identifying Poor Process Design

Luckily, poor processes that do serve some level of purpose have some telltale signs to show that they are no longer fit for purpose. Usually adding complexity or further action points outside of the main process requirements. Whilst process redesign may seem like a labour intensive practice, how much time is spent rectifying a bad process, that is just taken as "the way things are"?

Administrative Complexity

This can take two guises. Firstly, if the process itself is administratively burdensome, from a time in motion perspective, there are probably a host of steps that add no value to the process, why do we need to complete them? Secondly, if there are a host of administrative correction processes, such as changing a manufacture of the product on the line, or crediting part if not all of the order, why do we want our teams completing them? If simple repetitive tasks such as password resets being automated could save US based businesss $1.8T, what could removing administrative burdons of our own design do to improve productivity? 

Customer Complaints

Okay, sometimes not everything goes perfectly and as a customer, we have the absolute right, if not duty, to let the business know that we feel let down. Without that feedback, how do we hope to improve? In a recent study, 71% of staff interviewed stated that being involved in a customer complaint negatively affected their work practice. If we find that the same complaints are surfacing about the same touchpoint, it is time to review that process and address its fit for your business today. If we can reduce those complaints with a fit for purpose process, what would it do not only customer satisfaction, but also staff morale?

Large On-Boarding Costs

If on-boarding is a headache, even in an ISO accredited company, that could be a sure sign that the process harbours too much complexity. Making a process easy to understand, even for a new starter, is the sign of a streamlined and efficient process. With an average onboarding taking around 28 weeks, shorter, simpler processes ensure we can maximise value from staff at the earliest opportunity.

What's Involved With A Process Redesign?

Effective business process redesign is in itself a process. Generally it will follow a fairly prescribed format, that ensures defined outcomes are achieved.

  • Define a cross functional team, bringing people who are subject matter experts and an outside perspective together.
  • Set definition of scope to avoid project creep.
  • Define the process, including value added and non-value added steps.
  • ​Review the process from a time in motion perspective.
  • Outline potential process improvements.
  • Test new process.
  • Signoff.
  • Implementation.
  • Feedback loop and continuous improvement.

There are, of course, within this, nuanced steps and tools used to deliver this improvement, but ensuring that you hit these key steps will ensure a smooth process redesign takes effect. Businesses are always looking for continuous innovation from an outside in perspective, but sometimes we can forget to innovate and improve what we do today. Take the time to review your own processes and you can reap the benefits of higher productivity and lower conversion costs today.

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James Adams


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