Problem solving is an important skill in every business, role, and industry. When preparing a new process or making adjustments to an existing process, it's almost impossible to determine what every single problem will be and how they should be fixed. By understanding these problems, the right person will be able to manage solving them.
Mistakes, bugs, and enhancements
When a process goes wrong, there is non-compliance with a policy, or someone acts outside of authority, the source of the problem needs to be determined:
Did someone make a mistake? - Mistakes happen. Someone may have entered someone's name incorrectly into the CRM system, fat-fingered a number on the journal, or didn't take approval appropriately.
Is there a bug in the process or the systems? - The outcome of a bug can be a mistake somewhere, but its cause is normally related to something within the process (or system) itself. A bug needs to be corrected, but it does not imply that someone erred.
Did we keep something out of scope that we should have included? - When designing a new process, policy, or system, decisions are taken which sometimes include steps or pieces of feedback. Changing key steps in the process or adding new ones are enhancements which require implementation.
The challenge is determining whether or not a change is due to mistake, bugs, or enhancements.
Providing solutions to each of the above problems is not necessarily one to one, and fixing the problem can take many forms.
Introducing new guidance
Sometimes, the implemented process should have worked, but something is not clear. Providing some more guidance, whether having a conversation or publishing a guide will ensure mistakes aren't made again, and can sometimes fix bugs in a process. The problem is usually solved by the user, but implementation is completed by the process or system owner.
For example: The company's protocol requires all property-related contracts be approved by the Director of Real Estate. An office manager signed a cleaning services agreement, but did not seek approval. He reasoned that this is not a property agreement, rather it was office management related. Everyone agreed that there is a bug in the process, and further guidance is needed. The Director of Real Estate published a list of agreements which must be approved.
The process operated effectively, but due to lack of appropriate guidance, someone made a mistake. The publication of a list fixed the bug in the approvals process and will help to ensure it does not happen again.
More implementation support
Sometimes the guidance is there, the process should work, but there's some more implementation needed.
For example: Company ABC now requires staff to work remotely two days per week and has upgraded their conferencing system to include video chat and whiteboard. During the first few weeks, users escalated that they could not find the whiteboard and found used their mobile phones to hold calls instead. The IT department prepared a short video explaining how to access the whiteboard, and user experience improvement.
Here, users knew what they wanted, but struggled to find it. By provided some more implementation support, user experience improved and productivity most likely will remain stable or increase due to better IT system support.
When users should make their own decision
Deviation from process sometimes occurs not due to the process itself, but due to a related process. In this case, a person's ability to self-solve problems becomes important. These situations require a good understanding of company operations, what each process intends to do, and how they are related. When processes intersect, it is difficult to provide guidance for each situation, and it is unreasonable to have the process owner or system owner provide solutions to everything.
Areas which should be solved by the user can include:
A transaction was mapped to the wrong general ledger account which led to an incorrect posting. The controller should understand where the accounts were misstated, post a correction journal, and advise the right person to correct the system. The controller should understand how the systems are connected, and how they should post the journal.
A vendor put a wrong purchase number on the invoice. Accounts payable should be able to identify the purchase order and confirm with the vendor the mistake. Payment doe not need to be withheld, unless there's a regulatory problem.
The role of the process owner and leader
Process owners should never assume that their processes are perfect. There are many areas which they will not consider, and they must be open to feedback. Feedback must always be considered, and suggestions not pursued should be supported with guidance as to how to manage that situation.
Users must also know when they need to escalate problems to the process owner. Their leadership should foster a problem solving environment which encourages individual bug fixing and improvements. Constant escalation of small errors will lead to delays in implementation, and an inability to adapt and provide post-implementation support may lead to problems delivering goods and services. This would harm the company, but the employees too since management may begin to see them in a negative light.
Process owners and management need to keep the lines of communication open, and maintaining the right Change Management Process will ensure that teams are on the same page, enhancements are approved, and guidance in provided to fix bugs and help identify and take action on mistakes.
Consultants such as Chayim Messer Consulting can provide support in identifying bugs, mistakes, and errors as well as implement a Change Management Process.