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Zoom In On Work Processes

Businessman or engineer working on business process automation or algorithm

Three considerations when planning a business process change

As organizations evolve and grow, they need to examine the efficiency and efficacy of their processes. What has long been a common practice in manufacturing has spread to all sectors as organizations involved in education, government, insurance, and healthcare seek to ensure product or service quality while keeping costs low. 

“There’s definitely a savings impetus for managers—they want to see cost savings,” says organization development specialist Keith Setterholm. “But the benefits of process improvement are not all monetary. There is a greater benefit in growth potential when employees are working more effectively and efficiently.” Setterholm teaches Process Mapping and Analysis, the first in the four-course Business Process Improvement Certificate at the University of Minnesota.

Now that we know the why, what about the where—where do we start? After all, there are often multiple processes and more than a few people involved in delivering a product or service, so it’s not as simple as rearranging the furniture. 

“This is not all theory. I give very practical tools to take to work the next day.”

Keith Setterholm portrait
Keith Setterholm

Setterholm says there’s no paint-by-numbers approach. But when you’re ready to put a magnifying glass to your organizational processes, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Process complexity. “As processes become more complex, there’s more room for waste and inefficiency,” says Setterholm. “The first step is to identify the processes in your organization and understand how they interact in the larger system. Ask, “What is the purpose of this process and who is involved?” “How do we operate today and how do we want to operate in the future?””

2. Technology. Technology is both a benefit and a boondoggle. “In too many cases, technology drives the process rather than the process driving the choice of technology. Bottom line: use tech, don’t let it use you,” says Setterholm. “Put new technology in place only after you’ve gone through all the phases of business process improvement and know what technology you really need.”

3. Company culture. One of the larger issues to address is related to company culture, according to Setterholm. “You need to get buy-in at all levels, starting at the top. Management needs to be at the table from the beginning.”

Setterholm says you don’t have to change everyone’s mindset at once, but you need to start somewhere. And it’s helpful to have common language and tools, which he teaches in the Process Mapping and Analysis course.

“This course gets into the tangible; participants leave with methodologies and guidance on how to connect them to their work,” he says. “This is not all theory. I give very practical tools to take to work the next day.”

Setterholm offers a useful maxim (often attributed to author Richard Pascale) to approach the challenge of bringing everyone on board: “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.” In other words, just do it.

Get off to a good start in business process management with the Process Mapping and Analysis course. We hope to see you there!

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Keith Setterholm is the principal of Novus Via Consulting and an associate consultant with Process Management International in the United Kingdom. Since 1987, he has been actively consulting and coaching in the business process management field, leading hands-on process improvement, collaborating with clients on business redesign projects, and designing and delivering customized workshops on process management, leadership and facilitation, and strategic change.