How often should Processes be reviewed?
Changes in environment, whether that be advances and implementation of new technologies, changes in physical environment, or key personnel could mean that, before your very eyes, your processes may become outdated, inefficient and obsolete.
The need for continuous improvement of processes is the main reason reviewing is important, but the time taken to do those reviews are key to business growth. So, what am I saying? Do you need to have a process to review a process?
In a word, Yes, but it’s not a bad as it seems. It’s all about being ready to look at what’s been the norm, and change it up, ready or not. Let’s have a look at a few of the reasons why your review timing is mandatory, immediate, or on a more informal need by need basis.
When should I review?
Key processes and their documentation vary from business to business, and of course from task to task. What will take priority for some may not be even on the radar for others. For many, the time frames are quite regimented.
If you have a structured and certified (quality) management system like ISO 9001 then you will be aware of having to review processes at least once a year for internal audit requirements. Keep in mind, there is assistance available. Use of relevant and intuitive software to ease the burden, can be a welcome tool. In addition to internal audits, an auditor from the certification body will be a familiar visitor, conducting the required external audit. Every process should be audited by an external auditor every certification renewal cycle, which is three years for the ISO 9001. Both internal and external reviews are essential and key to the process but if you dread the thought, or find your eyes are glazing over right now, remember that directives are not a bad thing. Structure tends to breed conformity, yes, but it also lends itself to confidence and stability. Apart from regulatory reviews, the reviewing processesneed not be an all-or-nothing situation. Amendments can be considered at any stage of the review process, with key staff being asked to undertake review at a moment’s notice.
Imagine you are faced a sudden resignation of a key member of senior management. Years of knowledge could, and will, walk out the door with this person. This is a situation that needs immediate attention. Personnel changes and employment strategies may need reviewing only on an ad hoc basis due to out of the blue, changes in management or through new government employee regulations changes, but unforeseen events will test you and your processes.
As another example, if you’ve had an incident where someone has been injured in the workplace, and people did not know what to do, the task is clear. So then, is the need for a review and communication of the process.
These types of emergency reviews are generally created from a specific happening, an unforeseen occurrence that has identified as worthy of attention. From all accounts, the most important time to review, it seems, is when there is a change. A change in direction for the business, the creation of new departments, or new positions within the organization do point to some areas that may need to be looked at, but just a newness creates a need, so does stability.
Determining regularity is all about identifying the task at hand. If you look at it like project management it may help to make more sense. For new processes, it is probably wise to monitor progress on a more regular basis. These are the times when teething problems are first identified. Don’t see this identification of issues as a failure of the process, or that of the creator, but simply as a perfect opportunity to fine tune some of the more elusive points. You’d be surprised at how many things raise their ugly heads when poked. Hey, they may be ugly but they bring you a gift. The gift of opportunity.
What if it’s not broken?
It’s easy to think that while things are going well, it’s best to leave well enough alone. Not so, my hopeful friends, for it is these times when we should be looking at reviewing current processes. It is times of steadiness that can direct us to further success, by the mere reinvention of ourselves.
It is what it is, and if a business is to generate continuous growth and strength in what is essentially a demanding marketplace, the right amount of attention, in the right ways can be the betterment for all involved.
The End Game
If you weren’t under the impression before that you need to have eyes in the back of your head, you should be now.
Processes can be a double edged sword. They can raise the blood pressure of even the most serene of us and turn us into pen-wielding, red-faced maniacs. Or they can be seen as what they are. Continuous process improvement is a volatile, fickle mistress, yes, but an essential one. She offers self-reflection and the chance for progression. Very few things survive being put under a microscope but a process, given the right treatment, can survive both drought and flood. It is with all of this in mind that suggests knowing your business well, and knowing what drives your success, for now, and tomorrow as you look to the future.