In previous Blogs (click here to see them all), we discuss the importance of Procedure Documentation. While working with clients, we often encounter challenges associated with processes that vary within an organization, usually based on the specific needs of a department or team. This Blog will explore the pitfalls of process variation and how to manage them.
Please note: The content in this Blog addresses process variations in task completion steps that result from the specific needs of a department or team. It does not address naturally occurring process variations often seen in manufacturing, such as temperature, humidity, and other environmental conditions, as well as differences in the materials used or in the equipment and tools used to manufacture a product.
All businesses can experience process variations at any level. Specific needs may require variations – making everything fit into a mold is difficult. While these variations are a reality for businesses, they come with costs. Some of the pitfalls that can arise from process variations include:
- Reduced quality and consistency
- Increased costs
- Reduced efficiency
- Lower customer satisfaction
- Potential compliance issues
- Disengaged employees
To optimize the capability of people and systems, leaders should be aware of any process variations, decide which are necessary, and eliminate unnecessary ones. Based on our team’s real-world experience and education, here are our top 4 tips for managing process variations in your business:
- Agree on the standard process that becomes the foundation for any process variation. See our “Don’t Forget the Standard Operating Procedures” Blog, discussing the need for Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) in business.
- Establish variations based on the standard process – but only IF LEGITIMATELY NECESSARY.
Example: The standard is to email a time off request to the office. Bob has access to his email but decides to stop in to tell the office verbally. Betty does not have access to email; therefore, she calls the office with her time off request. Both result in the office getting their time off requests. However, Bob’s method is not legitimate, while Betty’s is. Why? Because while Bob has access to email and should submit his request per the standard, Betty does not have access to email and, therefore, cannot follow the standard, so a variation is necessary.
- Investigate rogue individual variations and address them accordingly. Some individuals only want to march to the beat of their own drum. Ensure they fully understand the reasons for following the standard process; however, do not discount that they may have a better way of doing something that should become the standard.
- Document agreed-upon variations. In some situations, documenting all possible variations may be challenging; however, doing so will better afford oversight and management of your process variations.
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