Monday, February 4, 2013

Getting buy-in for process improvement projects

While so much of the focus and research within the supply chain management arena revolves around technologies, networks and processes, I think it's interesting to think about the topic from another, perhaps more "fluffy" but nonetheless important, perspective. In reading about process improvement efforts at both Starbucks and at various hospitals around the country, it was interesting to note that the resistance to such projects seemed to come primarily from the staff and employees near the bottom of the organizational hierarchy. While administrators and c-suite executives were quick to tout the bottom-line impacts and quality improvement outcomes of process improvements projects, the staff carrying out the day-to-day operations of the businesses seemed to be the ones expressing concern over either real or perceived  effects on their ability to deliver personalized service. 

This raised a few questions in my mind -- first, should executives be concerned about such beliefs if the data tells them that the process improvement efforts are achieving the desired goals? Why or why not? Additionally, is there any way to address or combat this resistance? And finally, should executives take into account whether or not such improvement efforts really do affect the employee experience?

It would seem to me that without the buy-in and support from the individuals directly responsible for the processes in question, it would be almost impossible to achieve the maximum benefit from any improvement efforts. So often, the best ideas come from those with the intimate, first-hand knowledge of the tasks being evaluated. Finding a way to engage those individuals in the improvement process would seem to be a critical factor to success. Perhaps this could happen in the form of representatives from all levels of the organization working in cross-functional groups or an internal team competition for employees working together to come up with the most innovative or impactful process improvement. Whatever the method, I do think its critical for organizations to consider this idea, especially if they are a customer-service oriented organization or are operating in a field that has not traditionally used process improvement techniques. While more and more industries begin to adopt these practices, it is important for them to balance the new approach while still remembering their core mission. 

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