Online platforms have changed the nature of business-to-consumer and business-to-business interactions everywhere.
Two decades ago, no one had heard of social media. Today, it’s everywhere. Social media has become an integral part of how we learn, how we share, and how we communicate. And that, in turn, has completely changed the nature of business-to-consumer and business-to-business interactions everywhere, including in the building and construction industries.
Now imagine if the building industry and businesses in innumerable other sectors including manufacturing and distribution could tap into the same techniques that have made the social media revolution so successful to manage change and create a culture of process improvement.
Let’s face it, process improvement efforts are often doomed to fail because they lack the very things that have made social media so successful. Rather than creating personalized, shareable content characterized by a sense of immediacy and excitement, too many process improvement initiatives focus on extensive documentation which is not only difficult to share and communicate, but for which there is seemingly little “buy in” on the part of the company management.
Creating a blueprint for continuous improvement which incorporates the same principles that characterize social media is not impossible, however, as a recent effort by Ricoh – the international business services, document management and digital printing = company – shows.
In the last five years, Ricoh’s Australian operations have been through enormous change. Acquisitions and expansion into new markets, including the development of highly successful professional services and IT services arms, have resulted in the company doubling in size since 2010. To accommodate that growth, Ricoh developed many new processes and changed existing ones.
By late 2014, the time was ripe for Ricoh to replace its quality system with a new tool, one that would allow procedures and processes to be more easily introduced and maintained. The tool had to empower all the different areas of the business so that each group could take back control and ownership of their relevant procedures and processes.
To avoid problems with outdated or inaccurate processes, the new system needed to allow Ricoh to impose dates for review of content. It also had to solve communication problems by making process information accessible to all employees.
The tool chosen to help achieve this – Promapp, a cloud-based process management software solution – also enabled Ricoh to add rich content, such as screen shots and videos to illustrate how new products or procedures work. It laid the foundation for development of a library of frequently used acronyms and terms, removing any ambiguity and making it easy for new users to understand exactly what was being described in each process.
It also allowed information systems to be included as part of the procedure documentation, permitting Ricoh to see where systems are being used and how widely they are being used.
Another major benefi t became apparent immediately. The ability to nominate an expert within the procedure removed any doubt about ownership and ensured users could easily identify who to turn to if they needed more information. In addition, the depth of content and the explanations captured made the new system a key tool during the induction of new employees, providing a standard experience and consistent messaging for all.
Some Ricoh teams have even taken it upon themselves to create content regarding procedures tailored for certain customers. This allowed Ricoh to centrally capture information about specifi c customer requirements, such as how a company needs to be billed, the protocol for service calls, or delivery arrangements.
Ricoh’s success in creating a process improvement culture is in large part attributable to the fact that the company incorporated the same characteristics that make social media succeed. Specifically, the new system:
• Establishes a sense of urgency – Stories explode on social media because they grab attention. There’s a sense of immediacy and freshness, of news being shared as it happens. Because of this, social communications frequently feel more emotive than traditional communications channels. The overall effect is to draw the reader in. People become eager to follow the story, wanting to learn what happens next. Unfortunately, when dealing with change projects, too many companies assume their customers, staff, or business partners automatically recognize the urgency of the situation, so they skip this step entirely.
• Recognizes that helpful information works – Networks such as Facebook and YouTube are easy, informative and likable. Above all, they are rewarding. People of all skill levels can fi nd the information they are after. That’s why so many people go back to social media networks again and again. Compare this to process improvement projects and the accompanying documentation that organizations have been producing over the past few decades. Organizations that want to establish a culture of improvement need to make their processes simple, useful, and accessible to all, so the processes can be adopted, applied every day and improved.
• Provides shareable content – One key reason social media has such a high participation rate is its shareable content. It’s easy to send the information to friends, colleagues, and partners, and to embed content from other sites and other networks. How can this lesson be applied to processes? History has taught us that people won’t come running to your processes, so it’s time to take the processes to them. Use the wealth of technologies now available to present information in rich, engaging formats. Share process know-how from the places that teams already visit. Make knowledge mobile, accessible, and shareable, then monitor where, when, and how users are accessing the data to learn what they prefer.
• Personalizes process – Interaction is another core success factor feeding social media. Users like to personalize their experience by interacting with sites. Users get to feel part of what’s going on, they contribute, and become more engaged. By applying these same techniques to conversations with process owners, you can tap into this behavior and the challenge of change. Teams can connect, comment, respond, collaborate, and even disagree, to constantly evolve processes.
• Enables process governance – There’s no point grabbing attention, then disappearing. This is as true for social media as it is for process improvement. Change is about the long game. Starting with a sense of urgency is important, but it has to be maintained. A culture of change and improvement is an ongoing attitude, not something that can be achieved and then forgotten. This means meeting and publicizing milestones, and demonstrating success stories coming from change projects.
IVAN SESELJ is CEO of Promapp Solutions, an industry-leading provider of cloud-based process management BPM software. For more information, visit www.promapp.com.