5 Tips for Simplifying Complex Process while Balancing your Day Job

Let’s face it: time is money. It sounds cliche, but there are few statements about time that are truer than that. When it comes to the internal processes that make your company tick, throwing away extra time with inefficiencies or unnecessary tasks is the same thing as throwing away money, and bottom-line profits.
And yet on the other side of the coin, no company - no matter how big or small - always has buckets of disposable cash to implement necessary and continuous improvements. If you are in the position of having little to no budget for hiring outside consultants to improve your internal processes, consider some simple steps that can make big moves in the right direction.
We’ll call it the Process Optimization Process, and it will take you about 15 minutes a day when done with regularity.
Step 1: Prioritize: Take a minute or two to evaluate what processes need overhaul within your team. If this is your first time, try to stick to a process with less complexity. You want to focus on getting the first one done from end to end, rather than getting into too many details. To many details will result in overwhelm and failure, so stick to a straightforward process your first go around. As time goes on, and you implement the Process Optimization Process regularly, more complex processes will naturally become a part of your daily routine, so don’t think they’ll never be addressed.   Find a wall and a big sheet of paper (such as butcher’s or large meeting note post-It boards) and write each step of the process out.

Step 2: Schedule 15 Minutes Every Day: The Process Optimization Process should take you no more than 15 minutes when you are doing it every day. But it must be a daily ritual to be effective and efficient; so, schedule that 15-minute block as a part of your daily routine.  This is the time that you are going to think, plan and undertake your process optimization. Each day in this system will then have a natural block of time that is dedicated to process simplification. Over the course of 3-6 months, you will be surprised how much you see change in real time by sticking to your 15-minute daily block.

  Step 3: Current State Mapping: On the area that you’ve set up on the wall (with butcher’s paper or large meeting note Post-It boards), use smaller Post-It Notes to write each step out of the process you are beginning to evaluate. Post-It Notes are better than writing directly on paper, because as you begin to make corrections or changes to the process plan, you can easily move and reorder the steps as needed. Try to find a space where you may leave your process mapping up. You’ll want to keep it up daily, and have it be visible to you when you are doing your other daily work tasks. While you are only devoting 15 minutes a day to your Process Optimization Process, having it in plain view will help you continuously be thinking in the back of your mind about further changes and ways to increase efficiency as your days go on.

Step 4: Review and Reflect on Your Current State: This is the point of the Process Optimization Process where you will need to start asking yourself some of the challenging questions. Look at your process as it is written out all over the Post-In Notes and ask yourself:

Q - Is this what happens?
Q - Is it what happens with regularity, or are there variations and distractions on a regular basis?
Q - What are the options for optimizing this process?
Q - Are there aspects of this process that are unnecessary, and could be disposed of?
Q - Is anything missing, or are there any places where efficiency can be improved?
Q - Can technology be used to automate any of these tasks?

This is sometimes a hard stage because you are asking yourself challenging questions. It isn’t always easy to look at a process in which you are deeply involved objectively to make improvements. But it can be done. Again, blocking out that 15 minutes a day to work on your Process Optimization Process, ritualistically, it will become easier and easier for you every day. 

Step 5: Develop Your To-Be Process: It’s now time for you to move beyond your Current State, and on to your To-Be Process. You’ve asked hard questions and identified areas that can be improved. You have moved around those Post-It Notes, and even deleted or added more automated and efficient ones.

Now it’s time to create your new To-Be Process in accordance with all those changes. It is important to recognize that the creation of your To-Be Process is a distinctly different step than in the third, for you aren’t just rearranging at this point, you are re-creating.

You’ll want to also regularly take photographs of your progress to reinforce where activities may be optimized. Even though this is your daily, 15-minute ritual, you’ll want to discuss your Process Optimization Process with colleagues and superiors, as well as other subject-specific experts, to validate your ideas and plans. Simplifying your internal processes on paper is typically only the start of your journey.

You will now need to work through all the ins and outs of making all these necessary changes that you’ve identified. But this doesn’t mean you have to feel overwhelmed or like the optimization of your internal processes is a lost cause. Using your 15-minute daily blocks of time, you can now work to define how you will implement changes. At the end of your Process Optimization Process, you will come out with better and improved workflow and company output.

And the best part is that once you’ve completed the process, it’s time to start all over again with the next internal process that needs to be simplified. The fun is only beginning you’ve washed, you’ve rinsed, and now it’s time to REPEAT! 


Kirk Penn, Principal Advisory Consultant

Kirk is a certified ITIL expert (v3) and Six Sigma Green Belt. He has worked on a variety of ITSM based transformation programs across Utilities, Telecommunications, Banking & Finance, Government & Public Sector, Real Estate & Transportation industries over the past 15 years. He is regularly called on by senior leaders and executives to provide ITSM strategy and guidance on complex projects across Asia Pacific.

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