The Practical Process Improvement Guide: How To Improve Your Workflow

“The Practical Process Improvement Guide: How To Improve Your Workflow” on Filestage, October 17, 2022.

#8 Workshops that Helped to Identify What Provides Value (and What Not)

Several years ago, I was a senior manager in a finance organization. All of my peers were responsible for accounting operations and my team managed the applications. Every few years our boss would ask us to review the operations. The trigger for these reviews was usually excess overtime during the monthly financial close process.
I would facilitate a several-day workshop with my peers. The first thing we would do was identify what provided “value”. In our case, we would look at the value of the revenue booked through each of these processes versus the relative level of effort expended. Each of the managers would first identify the monthly revenue stream and the number of staff hours expended to report that revenue.

This analysis gave us a quick view of where we had mismatches in effort and value. For example, an old product that brought in less than $1000K/month in revenue required more effort that one billing over $100M/month. So, we knew we had to do something about the effort on the old product because it was clearly not worth the effort.

We would then do a value-stream mapping exercise. We would start with a high-level view of the value stream. We would ask ourselves does the process make sense before diving into the details. In the example of the old product that did not bill much, we decided to completely revamp the process. Rather than focusing on trying to estimate the entire month’s revenue, we would estimate the first month and then true-up in the second month.

For other value-steams, we would go through the process in detail and ask pointed questions:

Did the step add value?

  • Was our level of precision appropriate?
  • Did we have too many control and approval points?
  • What would be the impact of estimating more?

All of these questions were helpful in prying people away from their beloved processes.  At the end of the workshops, we typically identified and implemented process changes that resulted in 25% effort savings. That was a lot. It meant that people were leaving work on time during the close instead of staying until 10PM or later.