The first thing I want to do is wish you good luck. I have been involved in trying to do some of this using technology solutions to help streamline processes, you may be in for a rough time.
Here they are, in no specific order (because it may have to all be going on simultaneously), my tips for solving multidepartmental waste.
1. Map the processes
Dive in and figure out where everyone gets their information. Each source of truth document, each output, each input. You want to find the main flow or the primary river of information. You need to identify all the tributaries, feeding the river. Beginning to the end. Source to the estuary. Don’t worry, you will probably miss something.
2. Identify Issues
Identify problems within the flow and come up with some possible solutions. You may have to confer with Subject Matter Experts (SME), individuals within the silos, managers, a lot of people. On the bright side, while mapping the process you can usually get ideas for some of the problems people are facing. You just have to find the source.
3. Get buy-in from senior managers
If you are in one of those silos along the information river, this is probably not going to be your manager. It probably won’t even be your manager’s manager. If you can get someone from above the silos involved and excited about fixing the entire process, the easier your job will be.
4. Identify the involved departments
Not only that, identify which pieces of the information river that belong to those departments. You may have to work with all of these departments and make requests from them. Figure out who the contacts are and treat them with respect. You may fail at getting buy-in from a senior manager completely, and if that happens you have to rely solely on your ability to negotiate with these guys.
5. Think small at first
It is much easier to fix small things that do not mess with the process much and deliver value than it is to implement wide sweeping changes. Wide sweeping changes face a much greater risk of resistance.
Unfortunately, not every issue is going to be a small change with a huge positive impact (almost none). But small changes with some positive impact is also a good thing. Focus on those before considering huge changes to the entire system.
6. Then shoot for the moon
Be happy if you can get out of the atmosphere. It doesn’t hurt to present your huge and wide sweeping changes for consideration. The worst they will probably do is tell you no. I have been told no dozens of times, I am still here. I have been told no, then after months of persistence, got a yes out of them.
7. Additional things to consider
Fear about the impact on employees and their jobs can cause huge resistance; which is understandable. Try to come up with alternatives first, but consider the implications of putting forth an idea where it is fairly clear that positions are being eliminated (imagine if it was your own job going away).
The best scenario you can hope for here is that you have the ability to help someone transfer within the company or figure out a way to still use their skills within the process. I have heard “no” because one of my suggestions projected a cut in the need of relying on temporary workers during the busy season. The manager was concerned it would cause managers above them to lay off permanent staff. You have to admire a manager trying to look out for their people.
- Lean Efficiency in Agile – Muda, Mura, Muri
- Business Process Waste Across Silos
- TIM WOODS and Lean Waste
- 7 Core Concepts of Lean
- 5S Outside of Manufacturing
- 8 Types of Muda Waste in Lean
Handling issues within a huge organization can be difficult. More often than not these issues go on for years with no one really realizing how much of an impact the waste is actually having (or they don’t care because solving it is really hard).
Additional Reading Material on Lean Waste
- The Lean Farm: How to Minimize Waste, Increase Efficiency, and Maximize Value and Profits with Less Work
- 8 Wastes of Lean Poster
- The Lean Six Sigma Guide to Doing More With Less: Cut Costs, Reduce Waste, and Lower Your Overhead