elephant and baby elephant
Whenever we’re asked by clients to explain our approach to Business Process Improvement or Re-Engineering, we invariably begin by telling the parable of the “Nine Blind Men and the Elephant.” Here it is:

Nine blind men surround an elephant. Each is grabbing the elephant in a different place. Someone asks each of the blind men in turn “What’s an elephant like?” The blind man holding the elephant’s tail says, “An elephant is like a rope.” The man holding one of the elephant’s ears replies, “An elephant is flat, like a pancake.” Yet a third blind man, with his arms wrapped around one of the elephant’s legs, responds, “An elephant is shaped like the trunk of a tree.”

And so on.

The point of the parable is simply this: Each of these men is right — for his part of the elephant. Yet, in the more important, holistic sense of accurately describing what an elephant is really
, every one of them is ultimately very wrong.

Seeing the “Whole Elephant”
In our view, this parable perfectly mirrors what life is like for so many people who manage a piece of an important business process. All too often, although they are acutely aware of their part of a given process — the part they “touch” — they are “blind” to its other pieces and, therefore, completely unaware of what the whole process really looks like. Without this ability to
see “the whole elephant,” as it were, they also can’t ever properly understand how what they do affects this important process or others involved in it. Given this reality, is it any wonder, then,
that so many of our business processes are sub-optimized and so much less effective and efficient than they could be?

The Power of Business Process Improvement
The great quality guru, W. Edwards Deming once declared, “A bad process will beat a good person every time.” The power of BPI is its ability to provide all the “good people” who touch a given process with the chance to see the “bad process” — often for the first time — as a complete whole. Just consider the motivation that results when you empower well-intentioned people to fix something that may well have been making their lives difficult for a long time.

Getting the “Whole System” in the Room
Here, then, are some basic steps to follow to implement an effective BPI approach that we’ve used successfully with clients for years:

1. Carefully and accurately define the scope of the process you’re trying to improve by identifying clear process “start” and “end” points. This ensures everyone knows the limits of the “playing field.”

2. Identify the key individuals who make the process work from start to finish. This will almost always, by definition, be a cross-functional group. And that’s good, since it ensures that you break through “silos” in your organization.

3. Now, get “the whole system in the room.” In other words, announce that your crossfunctional group of process owners is a team that you’re empowering to analyze and make recommendations for improving the whole process.

4. Next, if your organization doesn’t have any process-mapping expertise resident internally, you may want to seek. You’ll want to provide your team with someone who can help them to a) accurately map their process, b) identify areas of inefficiency, wait times, “loop-backs,” etc. and c) formulate recommendations for improvement.

5. Once your team has created their “process improvement plan,” you’ll need to give them the support — “air cover” — they’ll need to make required changes and ensure that these
changes really “stick” in your company.

The Payoff of Effective BPI
The ultimate goal of any BPI effort is significant and quantifiable performance improvement for your business and your customers. But it’s also important not to forget or understate the very significant and lasting impact that effective process improvement can have on your organization and business culture as well. So break down the barriers between your “good people.” Give them the chance to take their “blinders” off and go to work on the whole process that surrounds them.

Rebecca Rosario is a business process improvement expert and is available to help you and your business become more effective, call Rebecca today, 9898 9221 to find out more.

Article sourced and edited from Huffington Post