CONSIDER THIS ANECDOTE:
For years and years, an Italian family passed down its famous tomato sauce recipe from one generation to the next. Grandma would carefully teach the children how to make it and the recipe became a legacy of which all were proud. Then, times changed and the younger family members moved away while the older generation passed on. One day, the younger generation tried to cook the famous recipe “the way Grandma used to make it,” but no one could remember how—it was never written down. Even though Grandma would always be remembered, the recipe was lost forever.
Imagine this story in a business context: what would you do if your Compliance Officer retired? Your IT Director got sick? Or your head of loan operations went on sabbatical? If any of your key employees left tomorrow, would you know the ‘recipe’ to continue business as usual? If not, proactive process improvement is how to anticipate these “what ifs” and formally capture your processes so you aren’t left in a risky position with costly disruptions to your business.
REDUCE RISK, GAIN INSIGHT
Often, we’re so busy that we don’t take the time to focus on the value and efficiency gained from enhancing what already works well in our organizations—it’s only when they break that they get our attention. Yet, process improvement isn’t just about avoiding surprises and preventing loss—it’s also about gaining insight into how well current processes work to preserve your competitive edge. If something can be done better, faster, or cheaper, shouldn’t it?
Before your business succumbs to a knowledge succession calamity, use these five process improvement strategies.
1. Identify and formalize key employee functions
2. Define and diagram key tasks showing integration of people, processes and technology
3. Surface opportunities for process improvement and offer recommendations to reduce risk
4. Architect new links to bridge any process gaps and redesign processes as needed
5. Promote knowledge sharing and develop training to support a smooth adoption