When Jan Gillett, Paul Simpson and myself were working on our book, we started discussing the issue that it’s not uncommon for people to believe that once you’ve got a process, all the freedom and creativity has gone out of the work. Some say that it’s not possible to innovate if you are constrained by a process. Many associate it with tedious repetition of boring work and something that can only be applied to a manufacturing environment.
If you agree with that or have come across anyone who does, take 2 minutes, to watch this brilliant example of how a process approach inspires innovation and creativity: Morecambe & Wise Make Breakfast.
This excellent sketch perfectly demonstrates a process approach and the three of us reflected on all the attributes that following this ‘breakfast making process’ (BMP!) illustrates. As with all simple presentations, there are many messages and lessons to be learned. Let’s take a few of them:
You have to be very careful taking PDSA and 7 waste thinking into your home life. Simple videos like these are a chance to look again at topics like the process approach, systems thinking, PDSA and reapply that new insight into work situations.
Building innovation into your work is essential if you are looking to delight your customers. By definition the customer does not know what the delight factors are until they materialise so they can’t tell you! Many successful organisations owe their competitive edge to their ability to innovate and, therefore, delight their customers.
However, if you want to innovate, you need to understand the current state of the work, before you can develop any theories on how to improve it. AND customers will not be impressed by clever new features if you are letting them down on the basics.
At the most basic level, we need a definition of what is a process:
“A set of interrelated activities which transform a set of inputs to one or more outputs”.
There is a knack to learning how to think about any activity, such as making breakfast, as a series of clearly defined process steps. It is a good idea to have a good representation from operators of the process, suppliers to the process and customers of the process with you.
This will help you learn about the process such as:
With this agreed, you can now progress to creating a linear flowchart of the process:
At this point you should have between 8 – 12 steps.
Linear flowcharts are the simplest form and are useful to provide a picture of the overall flow. They can help you standardise the work, uncover duplication of effort, delays, omissions and unnecessary steps. If you find that the flow of the process passes from one organisational unit to another you may want to consider using an integrated flowchart.
I will be thinking of Morecambe and Wise the next time I’m faced with a process bottleneck or analysing the unintended effect of the interaction of two processes I had thought operated independently.
Perhaps I’ll change my mantra in the future and go from ‘What would Deming do?’ to ‘What would Eric and Ern do?’
Susannah Clarke is Managing Partner at Process Management International (PMI) and a specialist in the field of Executive and Performance Coaching. Susannah has worked extensively in the learning and development sector, starting her career with NatWest Markets in the City before spending 17-years with GSK as a consultant.
In 2011 Susannah joined Oracle University as Partner Director for EMEA and in 2013 joined PMI as Managing Partner. As co-author of ‘Implementing ISO9001:2015” she brings together more than 35 years’ experience leading, managing and consulting across different organisations. Susannah has written several blogs and published many articles in leading process and Quality focused publications.