How to facilitate sustainable process improvement

When things go wrong, it is often reported that procedures were not followed, or that despite training, human error was the root cause of the incident. In response, the organisation will report that ‘measures have been put in place’ to stop it happening again. Everyone is happy…until the next thing goes wrong.

The responsibility of processes and procedures often falls to the manager, who will determine the changes that are needed, record the new processes, get them approved, and inform their teams. Once this happens the process is implemented, but it is what happens next that determines whether  this change is actually sustainable.

How many times do you see processes saved as documents, or added to a hard copy file above the managers desk and rarely looked at by the people carrying out the tasks? The result is that people resort to what they were doing before – and fail to sustain the change. This information needs to be in front of those that are performing the process, living and breathing guidance that people discuss, challenge, and continuously improve.

Another key to sustaining processes is to push the responsibility for maintaining and updating them into the business. Overall responsibility can remain with the manager, but the day-to-day running and updating of the process should sit with a local expert.  Research shows that empowering staff to take local decisions can help the organisation sustain change, and processes are the perfect opportunity!

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