Most businesses have pretty well developed business processes.

It is clear where they start, where they end and they give a good idea of what happens in the middle.

Many of them include responsibilities and clarify the deliverables at various stages throughout the process.

So, how do you make a business process more effective at helping you to deliver on time (whether this is for a project, a service or a factory)?

Here are five tips to push you in the right direction:

1 – Strive for clarity

Provide absolute clarity around the critical elements of your process.

If you have to interpret any part of a critical part of a process you can just about guarantee someone will interpret it incorrectly.

If in doubt, capture these parts of your process so that a ten year old would have no doubt about the actions required.

2 – Don’t become complacent

Every time that you see something that isn’t quite right with the process, speak up.

Walking past something that could be better, and not saying something, is the polar opposite of continuous improvement.

Everyone sees the world differently and sharing these concerns with others is how great businesses get even better.

3 – Set standards

Ensuring that standards are set, that complement your process, helps keep your team on track.

This can apply to processing documents, providing weekly updates, maintaining a certain level of accuracy, or housekeeping your computer systems.

If a specific performance level of an element of the process needs to be defined, so that you can deliver on time more easily, then define it.

4 – Observe the final steps

Leading on from the last point, observe the end of your process to look for improvements.

You can tell a lot about the effectiveness of the management and design of a process by witnessing what happens at the end of the process.

A poorly managed process experiences all of the deferred decisions and incomplete activities washing down the slope to the finish line, for the last person in the chain to deal with.

If you see this, see point 2 above!

5 – Slim down the process

Aim to reduce the number of steps wherever possible.

Every time there is a step there is a chance that a delay can be built into the process.

Every delay puts pressure on the lead time of your delivery process and takes you further away from being able to deliver in a cool, calm way.

Challenge the steps, look for ways to merge activities or look to re-arrange the sequence to prevent the need for other things to happen.

The above might seem like a gross simplification of process improvement but it is a good list to reflect on periodically.

If you can look at your process and not be able to spot anything that doesn’t work properly, doesn’t have too many steps, has clear standards of performance spelled out and doesn’t leave the last person in the chain pulling their hair out… you probably have a good process that can help deliver on time with the least amount of stress.

If you can’t see this, then work your way through these five points and continue with your journey.

And, don’t overload your process. Juggling your resources is a skill but be clear whether you have a good process that is stretched or a poor process that is stretched.

I hope you found this article to be useful. If you want some further ideas then check out my book What Does Good Look Like? or the Making It Happen toolkit.

Giles Johnston

Giles Johnston is a Chartered Engineer who consults with businesses to improve their on time delivery performance, ERP system performance and deploy Kaizen / Lean production methods. Giles is also the author of 'What Does Good Look Like?'.