Process improvement tip From Raewyn Ford, World Vision New Zealand. Issue #11.
We made the mapping of our processes part of our business-as-usual at World Vision. By capturing the processes related to everyday tasks that are likely to affect most people at some point or another, there was less resistance to a new way of doing things. Read more.
The Process Improvement Tips from the Trenches blog series shares process improvement tips, tricks and recommendations from process management professionals around the world. This week's expert is Raewyn Ford of World Vision New Zealand.
In her role as a process analyst at World Vision, Raewyn Ford (pictured below in Tanzania) focuses on working alongside people in the organization to map current processes, identify process improvement opportunities and help to implement those improvements. In short, she aims to improve processes, where possible, to help the organization to work smarter, not harder.
World Vision is a humanitarian aid and development non-profit organization, providing emergency relief, long-term community development and advocacy for political change.
Why is process important to your organization?
One of our key strategies is to be a smart, impact-led organization. To achieve this, we need to understand what processes we have and what new ones are required.
For example, we recently reviewed our process for sending donation acknowledgements to supporters. We wanted to see how we could reduce the number of printed acknowledgements we send, by delivering them via email where possible. Although we were already sending most acknowledgements by email, we were interested in gaining even greater savings by reducing our printing and postage costs.
Where we have business activities that we do annually - like sending tax certificates to our donors at the end of the tax year - the processes are pretty much repeatable year-on-year. Having these processes documented really helps to ensure we don’t have to scramble to work out what needs to be done, or have to make it up yet again. It is also extremely helpful when a new person takes on a role that has been filled by someone else in the past.
We’ve realised that once existing processes are captured, they need to be constantly reviewed and improved to make the place hum.
What’s your biggest process management challenge?
Finding time to capture our processes has been our biggest challenge. As with many organizations, a lot of knowledge sits in people’s heads or in various written formats, like email. Everyone is so busy 'doing' their processes that they don’t have time (or make time) to actually capture them properly.
This means time is wasted having to either ask people if they know how something is done, or to send you any documentation they do have for that process. The document is often a very high-level, bullet point version which requires more time to dig into the actual detail of how something is done.
We also lose a lot of knowledge when someone leaves without documenting their processes properly. The new incumbent spends a lot of time either making up the process for themselves (trial and error is common) or having to ask others who have been here a while to try to work out what the process may be. The 'trial and error' method can be risky (and costly) if we are working on processes that directly impact our supporters. If we make a mistake that impacts our supporters, we may receive complaints and even have supporters withdraw their support as they have lost trust in World Vision.
What works well at your company?
We have established a Process & Quality Forum, made up of representatives from all teams in the business. Their role is to champion process improvements within their team. This group meets fortnightly to discuss the initiatives being worked on, track progress and share learnings.
Sometimes there may not be any progress between meetings, but this regular “check in” is seen as a form of support or encouragement for process champions who might be struggling to get traction or find time to progress initiatives. It’s a good way to hold each other accountable and offer help and suggestions for those who have come up against a brick wall.
What’s the most unusual approach to process improvement you’ve tried?
We made the mapping of our processes part of our business-as-usual at World Vision. By capturing the processes related to everyday tasks that are likely to affect most people at some point or another, there was less resistance to a new way of doing things.
Also, people soon understand and appreciate the value of capturing business processes when it makes their lives easier.
What’s your top Tip from the Trenches, a process improvement recommendation for other organizations?
Start small. We got the ball rolling by mapping our main processes first, like applying for leave and getting help desk support.
Soon people realised how efficient and effective it was to go to just one place, where everyone would get the same answer. There was no need to ask individuals for help, and risk getting a different answer each time. When teams see how easy Promapp is to use, they start relying on it more and more, and the benefits of process management started speaking for themselves.
Find out how smarter business process management has helped World Vision and other not-for-profit organizations, freeing them up to focus on doing more good.