Stabilizing Your Makeshift Systems

By Erin Bellotte, PGS Consultant

Going into the third year of this pandemic, successful organizations have shown their ability to quickly react to a multitude of different threats: employee and customer safety protocols, supply chain disruptions and the Great Resignation.  When organizations are looking to survive a difficult season, changes are made rapidly and process patches are implemented as a placeholder until the sense of urgency is past.   While these changes are critical to the immediate issue, the real challenge becomes assessing how well the patches hold up once the threats dissipate.  The following three steps are a simple overview to help stabilize the makeshift systems that your organization may have put in place during the pandemic (or any difficult season).  

Step 1 – Map the Current State

The first step is to assess your current state, go to the front-lines and see the work being done in its actual process flow from order entry to the final completion of transaction with the customer receiving their goods or service.  

Oftentimes the workflow being conducted varies from the assumed path, with multiple iterations depending on who is completing the work and variations to each individual order. Speaking with the front-line staff to gain their perspective on the current process is step one to understanding the reality of the current state workflow. Important to note, each staff member may have a unique makeshift system put in place during the pandemic, particularly if all staff was sent home.  Therefore, it is important to make sure you have all “current states” mapped in this step. 

Step 2 – Identify Constraints and Solutions: 

Once the current state(s) is assessed, the next challenge is to empower those same front-line employees to help find the constraints and solutions.  In a company culture where the employees feel valued and engaged, or at a minimum secure in their position, they will share their frustrations with the current process. 

Upon completion of airing out all the issues, with some guidance the team can shift identifying what is wrong to a solution-oriented approach.  Oftentimes, they already have improvement ideas in their mind, particularly in our pandemic world where each staff member may have created their own version of the system. They simply need an avenue for sharing the alternatives and selecting the best options.  Additionally, any changes to the process will be easier to implement if they came from the those doing the work. 

Step 3 – Implement Solutions with Training: Finally, the last step is not only of the most critical, but also one of the most likely steps to be skipped: full implementation including documentation and proper training.  It is critical that the process is updated in whichever management system the organization is utilizing as a reference point for everyone.  Additionally, any employees not immediately involved in changes to the system will need to be brought up to speed with training, or else the system will never truly stabilize.  By implementing solutions as quickly as possible, the organization will continue to foster engagement from the front-line and the process improvements will see greater success.   Any solutions that take longer to implement, should have regular status updates and change management from the leadership team so momentum is not lost.  

Personal Case Study

Professional Growth Systems (PGS) has decades of experience leading organizations through process changes. However, PGS had to utilize this same approach on our own systems to continue to help clients throughout the pandemic.  While the example below is a relatively obvious change that all organizations made, we will use it as an example to demonstrate the steps in action.  

Step 1: Map the Current State – PGS methodology since our inception revolved around getting everyone in one room to hold events.  Work sessions were typically held in-person with clients, and very rarely were virtual meetings conducted. Pre-pandemic, the thought of running a process flow mapping or strategic planning session virtually was considered suboptimal, so, frankly, wasn’t considered at all. Therefore a map of the current state was the structure and process for strictly in person client sessions. 

Step 2: Identify Constraints and Solutions – The obvious constraint going into the pandemic was that all in-person meetings were shut down.  All non-essential employees were working remotely, and the concern of spreading the coronavirus resulted in halting travel.  

zoom-gd38d7cd5f_1280-300x214.pngLike other organizations, PGS knew the solution was to switch to remote, virtual meetings, but creating an engaging space to hold our types of client sessions in a virtual environment was daunting if not impossible. Quitting, however, was not an option, so we looked for solutions. Discovering better technology tools, like video conferencing instead of just audio, reinforced engagement, while utilizing apps that allowed for creative work real time for flow mapping, brainstorming and evaluating ideas increased both our own enthusiasm and client results.  Another solution,  each team member very purposefully took time after a client session to reflect on what went well and what needed improvement. We followed our individual reflection with sharing with the team our successes and failures in the virtual realm, so that we were all able to learn  from the individual mistakes and successes.  

Step 3: Implement Solutions with Training – The final step was full implementation of the solutions we discovered. This happened quickly.   With projects already scheduled, PGS upgraded how it utilized technology on a daily basis to move into a virtual setting.  This included training for employees to understand how to use specific software advances and holding feedback loops after sessions to review.  This “upgrade – training – feedback” process continued as the months wore on and the virtual sessions increased. 

Utilizing these three steps, PGS was able to quickly transition from holding exclusively  in-person client sessions to providing completely virtual events.  As we see a shift back to more in-person meeting requests, we are still able to continue this offering to help reduce concerns of the virus spread, and accommodate organizations needing the remote option.  

While the problems of the pandemic today may look new, our Process Advantage system is proven to be effective in the assessment, solution generation and sustainment of any process change an organization is interested in making.  Please reach out for a complimentary Discovery to see if Process Advantage is a fit for your organization.