When it comes to implementing proper and effective procedures, there are lots of factors that need to be taken into consideration. Among those factors is the ability to objectively examine and identify what works and what does not work. With that knowledge, you would then make the proper adjustments so as to receive a more effective and efficient return on the investment of time and effort that is put into your operations.
Though there are many factors we could discuss, in this brief post we are going to focus specifically on identifying outdated processes. Through these process improvements we can hopefully learn how to better identify outdated processes and get rid of the procedural weight that may be bogging down our progress.
How to Know When a Process is Outdated
1. The people that the outdated processes are meant to help aren’t using them anymore
When there is an officially documented operating procedure for a certain job or task, and those who are actually doing that job are not using that procedure, it may be time to look at it as potentially being outdated. This is especially the case if the procedures that the employees are using are more efficient and effective than the officially documented procedure. The official procedure may have been good when it was voted on and implemented 20 years ago, but due to technological and other advancements that procedure may now be obsolete.
2. The people that the outdated processes are meant to help are trying to tell you they are outdated
I believe there is often a mentality that those in management and leadership have which assumes that “because someone gets paid less than me, they must also know less than me”. This may be the case when it comes to the things for which that manager or leader was specifically hired to do. But, this is almost never the case when it comes to the specific details of what that employee was hired to do.
The one in charge may know all the organizational rules and what the officially documented procedures are for that position, but when it comes to the actual doing of the job, those who are doing that job every day will be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t work; what is relevant and what is outdated. If they are trying to tell you this, rather than toeing the outdated line, just listen! It may well bring bigger results than you ever imagined!
3. You have to force the outdated procedures to be used
If you have to go out on the floor or out into the field where your employees are and tell them, “Stop doing it that way. That is not the official procedure of the company”, you may need to reexamine the official procedures of the company.
I should say here that these procedures we are examining do not include those that have been set by higher governing bodies to ensure the safety of the employees and customers. For instance, on a construction site, hardhats should be worn because it promotes safety and it’s been set as a rule by higher governing officials. But, if there is a company rule that tells all construction workers to only wear yellow hardhats, and you find out it’s because the original owner back in 1950 didn’t like any other color, it may be time to review that rule.
What Should You Do Instead?
So, with all this information about identifying outdated procedures, what should we do instead?
1. Pay attention to whether or not a specific procedure is still being used
This goes back to factor #1 above: The people that the outdated processes are meant to help aren’t using them anymore. Rather than being overly-defensive of a company rule, we should actually pay attention to whether or not it is even being used. If it isn’t being used, we should ask why it isn’t.
2. Pay attention to what is being said by those who are supposed to be using the outdated processes, but are not
This goes along with factor #2 above: The people that the outdated processes are meant to help are trying to tell you they are outdated. Often, those in management and leadership have been around so long and have so much going on at their level that they don’t feel they have time to listen, or should even have to listen, to the ideas of those lower on the organizational chart.
By operating this way, lots of opportunities and therefore lots of momentum is lost and in their place are obsolete processes and procedures that take so much effort to do, they become a job all by themselves. Often, the problems of an organization’s performance are not found on a flow chart or on a running balance sheet…they are found among the outdated procedures the people within the organization have to pull along with them as they try to fulfill the organization’s mission and vision.
3. Be willing to get rid of the outdated processes rather than forcing compliance to them
If a procedure is identified as being outdated, it may not even have to be replaced at all. There doesn’t have to be a similar replacement for the outdated process. But, if you have to have something officially written down, you may consider allowing whatever the employee is already doing to become the new official procedure.
4. Ask the ones closest to the process if there is a better way
When we do this, we’ll likely see that, contrary to what we may have thought, there actually is a better way to improve processes within our organization or business. It will be very clear because it’s probably the way the employees are already using instead of the outdated process, they just didn’t want you to know.
I believe when we can take these easy steps to identify outdated processes, we can move significantly closer to the goal of being more efficient and effective in accomplishing our mission. Improving processes and procedures may not sound like a lot of fun, but once we start seeing the results, I think our minds will change and we may even begin to enjoy the process more than we thought!
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