There are many warning signs that should prompt you to take a long hard look at your processes. Excessively long lead times, an inability to deliver quality outputs on time, and increased customer complaints are three of the most obvious.

But some more subtle indicators often provide an early warning that your processes are not working as well as they should.

Spot these signs soon enough, and you may avoid even greater consequences that your customers notice before you do.

1. Processes are not aligned

Non-standardised processes that lack alignment will impact the quality and consistency of outputs.

This can undermine organisations of any size but most often emerges in global organisations, where processes and documentation are often localised and adapted even when there is no local legal or regulatory requirement to do so.

Complexity and inefficiency are the inevitable results. Roles and responsibilities become unclear, and no one knows who owns the process.

Precise definitions of roles and responsibilities and an agreed operating model will clarify who is doing what, ensuring the right people are working on the right things and reducing the risk of inefficiencies and duplication.

A lack of process standardisation leads to poor visibility of the end-to-end process, creating complexity, particularly at the handover and approval stages. They also make it difficult to assess progress.

Standard processes are particularly powerful for driving efficiency in process mapping, documentation, and training, where common approaches can be applied across geographies and business units.

They also mean that team members can quickly get up to speed in new roles as they transfer across territories and departments, making the organisation more agile and responsive.

Organisations without this standardisation will miss out on significant benefits.

2. Inadequate data

Accurate and timely data is crucial to effective decision-making. And good real-time data is often lacking when there are substandard and inconsistent processes.

Even where data is available, significant manual manipulation is often needed before it can be turned into insights to inform business strategy.

Other tell-tale signs include a fragmented and inconsistent approach to using measures and how data is captured and applied.

Continuous process improvement requires the development and monitoring of KPIs to measure process effectiveness. This generation of accurate real-time data empowers leaders to make informed decisions.

3. Process user experience is poor

A poor user experience for those working with processes is an unmistakable red flag that improvement is needed.

If those using processes need to manually manipulate data and information, copy and paste from one system to another, or find other workarounds to overcome frustration and inefficiencies, there can be little doubt those processes need to be reviewed.

This need often comes to light during the onboarding of new employees, where inadequate processes and documentation make the handover and training process confusing and complicated. I know of one organisation where the onboarding experience was so frustrating that it resulted in several new recruits leaving in their first year, meaning an expensive search for replacements was needed.

Well-designed processes enhance user experience, make your people more effective, and contribute to greater employee engagement. You can ensure these benefits are realised by focussing on the user experience when undertaking process redesign work.

Organisations generally have the resources and technology they need to make improvements but lack the focused time and a systematic approach to reviewing processes and implementing changes.

By monitoring these often-overlooked signs of poor processes, you may be able to prioritise which processes need review before they directly impact your customers and your bottom line.

If you are experiencing such challenges with your processes, please get in touch for an informal conversation about how we might be able to help.

Image (c) Shutterstock | Ground Picture

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Anne Broome