How to Improve the Process?

Episode 2: What kinds of business can we improve remarkably?

Originality Rather Than Cooperativeness…

The success of corporate Sales activities depends on the individual’s “ability” of Sales people. In fact, in many cases, how well they understand consumers’ needs and how concretely they can make suggestions are actually determined largely by the ability of Sales people rather than any reputation of their companies offering services and products.

In general, “originality” rather than “cooperativeness” is required, and in reality, a number of organizations are forced to realize that they can not provide, in the organization level, enough support to develop each Sales person. Sales people repetitively create and present proposals to their customers.

Figure 1

Though this is a little slanted view, usually most workers do not (are reluctant to) consult their supervisors almost at all, while few employees inform, contact and consult the supervisors in detail. Also, supervisors are so busy with super-sales that they don’t have time (are reluctant) to hear subordinates in many cases. Such a tendency exists in both small and large companies.

Points to Manage

“You are on your own.”

In fact, leaders using a phrase “laissez-faire” do manage well. In other words, they request only reports of critical information, and they don’t demand reports about trivial issues occurring daily.

Figure 2

This is good for members (followers) to move forward. For instance, they can take action freely as long as they observe a rule “if the proposal contains a deal more than one million JPN yen or if the estimate includes more than 50% discount, it is necessary to receive the supervisor’s approval in advance.” The clear definition of the discretionary range, including the rules and procedures, enables workers to fully exercise their “ability.”

Then, the leader sends an e-mail to members only when the rule gradually gets violated, “Please use the following format to receive my approval in advance if you treat more than one million JPN yen in your proposal.”

Table 1

Advice to a Proposal

A series of Tasks in “Approval for the Proposal/Customer Proposal Result Report” process can be illustrated in the following diagram. (*: Required)

Figure 3

A member (follower) ask for “approval for the proposal,” and his leader gives him necessary advice (L1). In some cases, the leader directs the member to revise it (M1). If the proposal do not have any problems, the leader says, “Present and propose this to your customer and then tell me the customer’s responses as you feel.” Later, the member reports the proposal result to the leader (M2).

The table below shows the summary of Tasks in this Process (Hereinafter, this is called Process Data).

Table 2

Not All Proposals Require Advice

Of course, if the organizational rule specifies that not all proposals always require the leader’s approval, it is necessary to rewrite the steps from “Prepare Proposal Draft (M1)” to “Proposal Result Report (M2)” to the customer. More specifically, we need to define a Conditional Split rule that doesn’t go through L1.

Figure 4

In this case, proceeding toward “State: Ready to Submit the Proposal,” that is to say, “State: Waiting for Input of Proposal Result Report (M2)” requires not only completion of necessary data for proposals besides the proposal itself but also the following conditions to be satisfied.

  • A: Estimated price is under 1 million JPN yen.
  • B: Estimated price is over 1 million JPN yen, but approved by the leader.

Well, most parts are organized up to this level, so I feel like properly documenting not only the proposal but also e-mail and verbal advice contents.

Cooperativeness Is Also Important

Once a Process of Approval for the Proposal becomes clarified, members who understand it submit proposals one after another. Moreover, if members start using BPM software to manage systems, they can refer to saved past proposals to quickly submit proposals of better quality. In some cases, the leader would be required to correspond and give approvals to members in remote sites who used to have few opportunities to obtain approvals.

Everything goes well with the company, but, in reality, the Process could more often stagnate at the leader’s “Evaluation Suggestion Task.”

However, calmly thinking, the leader does not have to approve all of them. Rather, co-worker review would often be more appropriate.

Figure 4
Figure 5

Want to Check Data of the Past

“Go back to square one.”

You may rarely be said in the tone like this, but we are often required to submit a proposal again. If we change the process, “Write a proposal and receive a sectional approval,” to a process, “Write a proposal, receive an approval, complete and improve the proposal well enough to satisfy the customer to a certain extent,” the diagram is changed as shown below.

Figure 6

The focus of this Process management is switched from “Complete the proposal” to “Acceptance of the proposal by the customer,” but in real this Process is often hard to manage. More specifically, the branching condition could become ambiguous, for example whether or not “Co-worker Review (Ma1)” will be again required even when only small revision are made on the proposal etc., or could unnecessarily increase the burden on the colleagues and leader. Thus, I do not recommend the management represented in the Image 6.

Improve Reusability of Proposals

It is not easy to organize Processes, but if a team can share them, such a team can achieve improvements from the following perspective. Especially, processes that strongly rely on ability of the individual make significant gains.

  1. Including new employees, everyone understands how to execute business and does not get lost
  2. Achievement can be quantitatively measured, and each worker’s achievement can be grasped
  3. Outcomes in the past can be easily referred to, and the quality of outcomes gets improved

When we focus on “Prepare a proposal and receive a sectional approval,” we want to encourage the members to refer to the outcome created in the past, i.e. the proposals that some other people wrote in the past.

Particularly, it is significantly effective to add “Search tags of proposals,” and “Evaluation of proposal quality.” By managing proposals based on the format as shown in the table below, as a result, the organization can strengthen the proposal ability.

Figure 5
Table 3

Afterward, furthermore…

If you want to improve the quality of deliverables created by Human Processes, the leader’s or a co-worker’s review is indispensable. In that case, a Process Owner needs to carefully consider the order of Data items to be managed and Tasks (Workflow) according to characteristics of the organization. Specifically, the Owner needs to think well about whether all of outcomes need to be checked or not, whether all of them must be always checked or not, and, in some cases, whether the work can be partially left to others or not. [The End]

Figure 7
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