Process is key to riding out a boom-and-bust cycle.
Businesses can build resilience in a constantly-changing economy with process management discipline and a positive change culture. Find out how.
The West Australian (WA) economy is the most cyclical in Australia, constantly shifting from boom to bust, and back again. Keeping a business functioning and profitable in these conditions can be a challenging task.
Currently, thanks to rising commodity prices, WA is experiencing an economic upswing. As a result, the state's hundreds of mid-sized firms are racing to find ways to scale up their operations to meet a projected rise in demand.
These firms are active in a diverse range of areas, from IT services and facility management to building and construction, as well as resources like mining, oil and gas. As the mainstay of the state's economy, it is vital for these businesses to react swiftly to changes in business conditions: they need to be resilient.
Being lean and mean.
Achieving this goal requires a business to be a lean operation. There's no place for complacency or processes and workflows that don't operate at peak efficiency.
Key to attaining and maintaining a lean status is having properly defined and documented processes in place, that are up to date. This is essential to remove unnecessary costs during growth periods and ensure that operational inefficiencies can be identified and improved.
Strong process management involves giving teams the power to 'own' their own processes. Team members need to understand their responsibilities and how what they do fits into the wider picture for the company.
Process can sometimes be viewed as a constraint or something that slows teams down. However, rather than constraining activity, process management discipline actually creates a dynamic and energetic environment. Staff know how what they do contributes to the overall success of the business and how they can help it flourish amid changing market conditions.
Having clearly documented processes also means that a business is able to quickly make any changes required when customer demand is quickly rising. They provide a roadmap to follow that allows operations to be rapidly and efficiently scaled up or down.
For example, having properly documented processes to support the on-boarding of new staff can enable organisations to expand business operations more quickly and efficiently.
This also applies to increasing stock levels, boosting marketing campaigns and finding new partners. In each area, defined and documented processes ensure a business can remain lean and mean while growing to meet new demands.
In addition to capturing accurate process information and ensuring it’s kept up to date, it's also important to create a central repository for all process documentation. This means that action can be taken quickly without teams wasting time attempting to source documents from different areas.
It also ensures that any changes made to processes can be reflected immediately. Particularly in times of rapid change, organisations need to know that everyone in the business will be looking at and following the most up-to-date processes, at all times.
Agility is the key.
When market conditions are changing rapidly, a business needs to be agile. For this reason, it’s important to invest in process management knowledge before the requirement to change arrives.
Once standard business processes are documented and followed by everyone, rather than having to rely on corporate knowledge locked inside someone's head, staff can consult the standard process and swiftly do what needs to be done.
As a result, the business will be able to improve agility and reduce its response time to change.
This will happen regardless of whether those changes are driven internally – like needing extra manufacturing capability or a more efficient supply chain - or externally due to a shift in customer demand or the entry of a new competitor.
An agile firm is one that can not only cope with these types of change drivers, but can take advantage of them to spur growth. As the WA economy rebounds during the coming years, it will be the agile firms that are the winners.
Adopting a culture of change.
While business process management plays a critical role in enabling an organisation to be agile, so too does establishing a culture that embraces change.
This culture needs to permeate every facet of the business - from the boardroom to the call centre - and influence the activity of all staff. It must be communicated effectively and recognised as being a part of the corporate DNA.
Creating and fostering a positive change culture involves rewarding excellent performance and encouraging staff to think outside the box. New ideas and approaches should be encouraged and nurtured.
When this type of culture is supported by clear processes, the potential for improvement and growth is magnified. The business will operate more efficiently and be best placed to quickly take advantage of new opportunities as they appear.
With process management discipline and a positive change culture, WA firms will be more resilient businesses and, most importantly, they’ll be ready to quickly take advantage of the improving economic conditions that lie ahead.
Roy Hill, an independent iron ore mining operation in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and one of the world’s major resource based operations, recently started working with Promapp. In this press release they share their objective to drive continuous process improvement, providing a single source of the truth that is in line with their process and governance strategy.