No one teaches you how to do process in undergrad and business school. No wonder there are lots of misconceptions about process improvement.
When you look at textbooks on process and ops, they only cover enormous multibillion-dollar companies. They don’t discuss how process improvement initiatives work for privately held companies. That’s the gap I’m trying to fill and build education around.
A common misconception about this work is that it only benefits big companies. When in fact, even small companies can establish themselves as number one in the industry through process improvement. It’s not something untouchable. Here are more myths that need to be dispelled:
Myth #1 Process improvement is just for manufacturing.
While process improvement is born from manufacturing, it’s applicable to every business. Every business has a process. For instance, process is important in service companies. Instead of looking at a widget going through a process, you’re looking at a person. Process improvement is even more important in service-based companies because the margin for error is higher.
We standardize processes to ensure that what we do, as a company, is delivered the same way the right way, every time. We are not trying to control but we are trying to stand for something. You want to define your level of excellence and quality, and then make sure it happens every time. Process is important for service-based companies because when you are managing a relationship and delivering an experience to a person many more things can go wrong versus when it’s just a product or an object.
Myth #2 Process improvement is difficult.
I want to dispel the myth that it’s scary and hard. I teach CEOs all the time not to identify with the problem. It’s a misconception that your problem has to be difficult to solve, if not, it’s not worth it. This work is not designed to fix enormous problems from the get-go. We love when problems are easy to fix. Essentially, what we do is chip away at problems until they get easier and easier.
Myth #3 Process improvement is only done once.
“I improve a process and I’m done. I can wash my hands of it.” This is one of the common misconceptions about process improvement. More leaders and organizations need to understand that operations is designed to be indefinite.
Ops is always changing. You are always going to need new things. Kaizen is called continuous improvement because you can never just wake up next Monday or next quarter with 0 problems. But this does not mean you always need to be fixing things. It means you always have opportunities to improve, and you don’t have to do everything now.
Myth #4 Process improvement means more work on top of work.
This is totally inaccurate. Process improvement is meant to make things simpler for people through the process. Instead of everyone randomly improving your processes in different places with different approaches and different levels of expertise and knowledge, you are going to carve out a little bit of time. You will be given tools and you are going to improve as one company. We call this one-team alignment.
You are not going to improve by individual or by department. You are going to improve as a company and in a scope that is palatable to the capacity of the organization. It’s not going to be one massive change in a short period of time. You are going to do it in three to four months lead times incrementally so that you exponentially improve each other over time.
Process improvement can work for any company when done right. Most of what keeps people from doing it are only myths. It’s not additional work. It’s not difficult work. The truth: this work is meant to make it easier for people to succeed in what they do, and as a result, the organization succeeds, too.
In love and respect,