Inside Dental Technology
What Makes a Good Process?
Build your business by creating the right direction for your employees
In the age of Six Sigma, LEAN manufacturing, and the increased emphasis on process management, everyone is striving to create a “good” process. But, how
do we know which of our processes are really working and which processes are not? Are you getting the results you expected? Were things working well at first, but now your progress has stalled?
Before we get to the anatomy of a good process, here are a few signs that your processes might need some work:
When something goes wrong, does it automatically result in finger pointing? Do your employees just not seem to care? They are not committed to the organization and it shows. They are surly with each other and clients. They show up late, they leave early, and they rarely have anything positive to say.
Poor Performance and High Turnover
It is unlikely that anyone who works for you wakes up in the morning and says, “I think I will perform poorly today.” The issue is more likely that they do not really know what is expected of them.
The training cycle for new employees is too long and it seems like the training material is not sinking in. Weeks, or even months after the initial training, the not-so-new employee is still asking others how to complete tasks.
Costs are too high. When it comes to poor processes, waste is generally what is driving costs—wasted time, wasted steps, and
Your remakes are up and your client retention is down. The top reason dentists switch laboratories is lack of consistency. If your processes are not working, it’s nearly impossible for employees to create a consistent product and experience for your customers.
As you develop new processes and revamp old ones, here are a few keys to a good process that come from the masters of process—IT professionals.
Simple and Obvious
A good process should be simple in that a new employee should be able to perform it without spending weeks in training. The process also needs to be obvious on another level. There must be a direct tie back to organizational goals and objectives. For example, if one of your objectives is to shorten turnaround time, a process that adds a day or two to production does not help achieve that goal.
Effective and Efficient
There should be no unnecessary activities, and the resources both consumed and produced should be the minimum necessary to achieve the outcome.
Not only do the end results of the process need to be measureable, (ie, decreased turnaround time or better communication across departments) but also the intermediate steps. By the time you get to the end of your process, if the results are not what you expected, it will be too late to do anything about it. Good process management includes measurement points throughout the process, not just at the end.
Maintainable and Manageable
It is rare that a process is created and then left untouched throughout its life. New technology becomes available, customers’ needs change, and the economic climate changes. With these
things in mind, processes will need the flexibility to grow and change.
Communication is key in a good process. Those who participate in the process, those who provide inputs to the process, and those who receive the outputs from the process should all understand expectations, goals, and results of the process.
There is one other thing to consider when developing a new process. When we develop processes, it is often done in a vacuum or we use a “sunny day” mentality. That is to say that we only consider the process when everything goes right. Unfortunately, things go wrong and more often than not, our customers’ opinions of us are formed based on how we handle those situations. Business process management expert Rob Davis notes in his article, “What Makes a Good Process?,”1 that you can’t plan for every scenario, but when building processes, keep in mind, does it:
Affect the customer?
Affect revenue or profit?
Affect key performance indicators (KPIs)?
Have regulatory impact?
Consume significant resources?
Asking these questions will help you create a robust process that can identify unintended effects and consequences, helping you avoid the “sunny day” trap.
There are more parameters and considerations for creating a good process, but using the list above will get you on the road to creating processes that will help build your business. The final key to a good process is the commitment to look at processes as a work in progress, which requires constant improvement and refinement.
1. Davis R. What makes a good process. BPT Trends. Available at: http://www.bptrends.com/publicationfiles/FIVE11-09-ART-Whatmakesagoodprocess-BPTrends.pdf. Updated November, 2009. Accessed January 1, 2013.
About the Author
Deborah Curson-Vieira is the marketing and communications manager for Dental Prosthetic Services.