Adapting to Business Process Change

People adapt to their surroundings. We make accommodations based on the circumstances we find ourselves in. This is true in our personal lives as well as in our business lives.

As a company that helps organizations improve their efficiency through the implementation of document management and workflow, the first thing we do with any potential client is to find out what their current state is. This leads right back to our observation… people adapt to their surroundings.

When we analyze the current state, we find ingenious ways that people get their job done. They look at the obstacles to accomplishing their daily tasks and they find work-a-round solutions. Over time, these solutions become part of the methodology on how things get done. Unfortunately, over time, circumstances change. What once was ingenious usually becomes just a business process that has lost its purpose.

Let’s look at a specific example:

At one government agency, they had to disburse copies of a document to multiple government organizations and to their citizens. The document was an 8-part carbonless form. When people filled out the form, the data rarely made it to the 6th page, let alone the 8th. The agency that we worked with kept the 8th copy. They basically were keeping blank, or almost blank, pages.When they decided to get rid of their paper and move to an electronic document management system, they asked us to scan the documents to make digital copies. This is where experience comes in; we analyzed their problem and asked them what they did with the top copy. It was a beautiful clean white original. It turns out they mailed them to another government agency. One manager hired a person to go to the other agency to copy the original page. they also started making a copy of the first page before sending. Over time, they stored both the copy of the original and the blank page. As part of the initial project, we provided conversion (scanning) services and scanned the clean photocopy of the original page. Going forward, we scanned the original page before they sent to the other agency, eliminating the need to copy it the original.So, did it make any sense to store the 8th and blank copy? Not really. But that was the way things were done. After the scanning project was started, they still saved the copy of the first page. Why? Because that was their process. (“we’ve always done it that way”) Again, this is where experience comes into play. Once we were able to show them the reliability of electronic document management they no longer needed to make the backup paper copies.If you look at your organization you will probably find that people have created all sorts of ways to get their jobs done. The only real solution to improving efficiency is to analyze what your organization really does and use that to determine what it really should be doing.Creating paper copies might have been a good idea at one point, but looking at the entire process enables you to truly streamline your organization in an intelligent way. Finding the people with the ingenious ideas is helpful too. Get them into the business  process so they can look at the big picture. If they were ingenious before, imagine what they can do with some encouragement.

So people do adapt to their circumstances. Take advantage of that aspect of human nature to make your organization better.