Health Check Your Processes...A Primer on Continuous Improvement
In 2010, CVS , one of the largest pharmacy retail chains in the US experimented with their prescription drug ordering process, which resulted in significant improvement in customer satisfaction. That outcome, while impressive, is not what really caught my attention, however. It was that the company replicated and installed the same IT-enabled process to 4,000 locations in next one year. Could your organization do that? Let's look at the CVS example from two perspectives, the experiment itself and the flexibility of the processes.
What CVS did was to experiment with the different parts of the ordering process - its systems, data, and resources. Do you experiment with your processes? Do you know how they are performing as a whole? By performing I mean do you have established benchmarks for your processes, and you get the data to measure often for optimization?
If yes, then you are on the right trajectory because first step is done. That is, you are thinking of improving your processes. If not, you may want to start thinking in that direction as experimentation and improvement may be the only ways to create competitive advantage for your organization. The nature of competition and rising consumer expectations will force you to continuously evaluate the performance of the processes and change them if need be more often.
As for flexibility, CVS had very flexible processes that they could quickly change (activities, data or resources) and adopt across multiple locations. Needless to say that you would this do this only if the change adds value.
But what makes a process changeable and adoptable? Let's start with process change. The more steps are managed through systems, that is, more automated a process is, the easier it is to change it at any given time considering less reaction and change management required from resource perspective.
The second aspect, adoption across organization is little tricky one and requires more preparation. To do this, an organization needs to work on 3 areas:
a. A common business process architecture language for processes at all levels i.e. enterprise level 'Business/ Process Architecture'
b. A master repository of the processes - well documented and managed in the system ( not as printouts and not in the form of a manual)
c. A global template for the process agreed by all the geographies or regions with minor changes to adjust for local flavors
Certainly, this is not the recipe for success as that requires a certain attitude of the organization too but for sure, this is a great starting point. It may lead into continuous improvement that can be structured around measurement and easy replication of successes. What do you think? Are you doing or planning to do similar experiments in your organizations?