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Business Process Efficiencies: How to Fix a Broken Process

4 min read


Updated April 1, 2024


Process efficiency is critical to the sustainability and profitability of every business. Improving business process efficiencies requires some organizational study and analysis, followed by a thoughtful, strategic approach to change. Process mapping and consultation can provide essential insights while secure document management and automated workflows can deliver exactly the kind of process efficiency that will make your organization more competitive.

14 symptoms of a broken process

Before we get to improving process efficiencies, it's often necessary to identify whether a process is broken. Symptoms of a broken process are wide-ranging and can hold an organization back on many levels. Most organizations experience several of these 14 symptoms:

  1. Customer complaints increase. If you notice that customers are unhappy, there's a good chance a broken process is at the root of the issue.
  2. Mistakes were made. When the work has been done but your staff didn't get it right the first time, and rework is necessary, that's a strong indicator of a process problem.
  3. Frustration is mounting. When you're picking up on a high frustration factor, there may be an opportunity to improve a process (and as a result, restore peace to the workplace).
  4. Results may vary. While this is a common phrase used as a disclaimer for products, consistency is vital to company success. High variability in results leads to high variability in customer satisfaction, and that is not advisable.
  5. Increasing lag time. When it's clear that some actions or deliverables are taking too long, it's time to map out the process and find where the slowdown is happening and why.
  6. High ratio of checking and review. Progress can be slowed when it's necessary to re-check results or review progress to an excess. Looking at the process can determine why.
  7. Wait times rise. If inventory, buffers, and other assets lay idle, there is likely a missed opportunity. Business process efficiencies can drive down wait times and reduce idling.
  8. It's all excessive. Excessive information exchange, data redundancy, and rekeying can be indicators that there is a process inefficiency that can be addressed.
  9. Complexity, exceptions, and special cases. When special cases and exceptions abound, chances are good there's an opportunity to fine tune the process earlier on so you can eliminate or reduce the problems.
  10. Workarounds. If staff are found circumventing established procedures to expedite work, it can lead to a bevy of issues. Workarounds illustrate there are process efficiencies to be discovered, so it's good to recognize them as a red flag.
  11. It's all done piecemeal. If nobody manages the total process, but rather the process is managed in pieces, there's a good chance the process can be streamlined for greater efficiency.
  12. Managers spend a great deal of time “firefighting.” Putting out fires is hard work, and it's far easier to prevent them from starting in the first place. So, if leadership is doing a lot of firefighting, it's probably time to light a fire under your process improvement efforts.
  13. You throw people or money at the problem, and it doesn’t get better. We've all been caught in the seemingly endless loop of throwing money at an issue or assigning more staff to it. If these tactics don't seem to be working, it's likely time to onboard a process improvement partner and get the job done right.
  14. The blame game is in extra innings. If your process spans departments and there is a lot of finger-pointing going on, that's a clear indicator of a process problem.

How to improve business process efficiencies in ten steps

Here are ten steps you can take to address and improve a broken process.

1. Identify the broken process 

Use that symptom checklist, focus groups with your employees, or job shadowing to recognize the broken processes.

2. Set clear goals you want to achieve 

Seek to understand how fixing this process will impact the organization. The establish goals and timelines.

3. Identify key stakeholders

Multiple areas of an organization are often impacted by a broken process and will have a stake in creating a new one. Define the roles and responsibilities for each.

4. Fully understand the broken process

Take an in-depth look at why it's done that way, historical attempts to address the issue, what needs immediate attention, and what can and cannot change.

5. Engage in process mapping

Effective process mapping can spot the problem areas.

6. Redesign your process

Look for opportunities to automate and eliminate steps and redundancies.

7. Support the process with the right tools

That may mean investing in technology, software, people, external consultants, or all the above.

8. Educate involved parties

Make sure those who touch the process are trained not only in the new approach, but on the tools necessary to the new process - a critical step in implementation of a new process.

9. Test and implement

A sure way to disenchant staff is to throw them into a new process that hasn't yet been perfected, so test first, and then implement the process. Along the way, be sure to monitor results and adjust the process if needed.

10. Lather, rinse, repeat

Fixing a broken process requires a commitment to continuous improvement, so revisit and revise as necessary on your way to perfecting the process.

Ready to improve business process efficiencies in your organization?

Discovering broken processes and improving process efficiencies is a continuous effort, and it can be difficult to go it alone. Once you have identified a process inefficiency, you may want the help of a business process consultant. At EO Johnson Business Technologies, we support our clients' process improvement needs by assisting with process mapping and providing expert consultative input with proven results.

Contact us to learn more about our business process improvement consulting services, workflow analysis services, and document management software solutions, all of which can help you realize process efficiencies in your organization.




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