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Business Process Design

By: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager Strategic Management Consulting Services

The following is the second article of a four-part series on business process management, which includes the need for clarity, proper design, appropriate communication and commensurate monitoring.

I remember a time when a construction company missed out on a huge opportunity because their credit approval process hinged on one person with limited to no oversight. The result:  The buyer went elsewhere because they did not feel valued – all based on the credit approval process, both in its administration and expediency.

At KHA, we help our clients out of these kinds of situations by advising successful business management processes. We begin our conversation with the question, “How have you designed, communicated and monitored your processes?” Please see last month’s article about the first step in process management, [the need for process clarity], where I discussed the need for clarity first before we can focus on process design.

If business process design is done right, we can eliminate company waste, internal control weaknesses and mediocrity across the organization. Process design is perhaps the most critical phase, as it all starts here.

When entering the process design phase, you may be tempted to think it would be easier to have something to start with and turn this project into a redesign. You would be wrong. A redesign is typically more difficult due to precedent that has been well cemented into the culture of the organization. For the rest of us who can only dream of starting a process design from scratch, we fall into the redesign bucket. This is what change management is all about, and if you have gone down this road before as a driver of the process redesign or as a participant, our sincere and heartfelt apologies go out to you.

Whether the process is from scratch or a redesign, both processes have three main stages: buy-in, comprehensive consideration of the current state and a well thought out future state. A good visual example of these states is Kurt Lewin’s Change Model.


No process can change without a sense of urgency: why do you think people are so deadline motivated? Each of these redesign phases takes time, some more than others, and all those involved will certainly experience challenge, if not pain. From the CEO to the end-user, we must strive for clarity and obtain buy-in at every level to ensure the design, communication and monitoring of the process is commensurate to what is warranted. If we do not, we will be looking back on this as a fond memory where we learned how comical the workplace and its inhabitants can be.


“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, we are here, so it’s broke. But, how broke is it?  Great question, and to answer it, we chart the current state. To identify what we are up against, we typically perform walkthroughs and map every step along the way. A walkthrough includes physically observing the current process being performed with the team at all levels and mapping each step. This is also a fantastic tool for obtaining buy-in, and the leader here must listen well. One of the more critical components here is the visual process map, such as those that can be drawn in Microsoft Visio. Most people learn visually, and, even those that do not, love pictures. This map also helps us physically chart suspected weak points, overlapping duties and even possible ways to rearrange the process to better suit team and company needs. Measuring the current state in such a visual manner is a key tool to use to stimulate discussion and obtain buy-in.


We know the current state and have considered it completely; we now look to change the process and shape the future state. Yes, it is time to begin melting the process. We understand the existing process and have heard from key personnel, including those involved in performing and monitoring. The melting process helps us identify weaknesses in the process such as inefficiencies, internal control failures and bottlenecks. These deficiencies are usually impossible to pinpoint in a sea of words but tend to pop out in that visual process map tool. Who said picture books were not good for us?


It is time to dream again. If this process could be everything we want it to be, what would it entail? We are reforming the process here, identifying the critical pieces that must be included. (Of note: a key mistake that can be made here is to design the new process without buy-in from the same teams we visited with to understand the current or preexisting process.) Collaborative whiteboard sessions here are helpful, and it is useful for the consultant or project manager to have ideas, but they must remain objective and flexible. Otherwise, the team can smell your premeditated agenda a mile away, and you will be losing credibility. This objective leader must be able to take the ideas good and bad and filter them while maintaining a feeling of involvement and inclusion from key constituents. It takes a special ability to be able to objectively arrive at the right answers, while still engaging and including key players. It is typically easier for an outside third-party to do this; they have less bias.


Alas, we converge on what the ideal process should be, based on the systems, people and needs involved. The new process is mapped and tested extensively. Once the team is comfortable with the new process, and they are comfortable with test results, the visual map should be used to document an accompanying narrative. This narrative provides commentary that can help solidify and clarify each intended action item; eliminate the wiggle room, you say?  Documentation must be palatable and easy to understand for the end-user.  If not, expect yourself to be back measuring the current state soon. The process has now been refrozen in the improved state. Depending on the context, it is time to get the necessary approvals and set a launch meeting.

We are ready for the next stage – to communicate the process. This will be covered in our next installment. Thank you for reading, and look forward to part three of this series on process communication next. We cannot wait!

KHA Management Consultants, the consulting wing of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the process experts, contact us at 972-221-2500.

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The Necessity for Clarity in Business Process Management

By: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services

The following is the first article of a four-part series on business process management, which includes the need for clarity, proper design, appropriate communication, and commensurate monitoring.

We meet with executives and owners of small to mid-size businesses daily, and often we hear things such as, “We have communicated the process, but it still is not being followed.” For instance, one department makes commitments without communicating to another department that is critical to customer delivery, leaving the delivery team disgruntled, overbooked, and frustrated, and the customer feeling the effects. Or, the collections process for past-due customers has continued to drag on, resulting in lost cash flow, even though management has reviewed the expedience of the issue at hand, ad nauseum.

When you work with people, you have processes not being followed. This creates inefficiencies and ineffectiveness that hit the bottom line both on the financial statements and company morale.  Some might say these issues are being driven by human behavior seeking the path of least resistance, and others might say the employee(s) should be let go. When consulting with our clients, time and again, we see that 99% of the time the problem is an operational issue and not a people problem. We have the solution: design it, state it, monitor it, and reward it.


An organization is effectively made up of people, agreements, and processes. The fundamental driver of connectedness within any organization is a clearly defined process; when teams are disjointed, working in silos, or lacking clarity regarding company goals and mission, the process breaks down, and fingers start pointing.

The question we first ask our clients is, “How have you designed, communicated, and monitored your processes?” The answer proves quite informative, as it usually highlights where the process breakdown has occurred. Process breakdown is the overarching term to define a process that is not working, and the specific breakdown point can be identified within one of the three key categories–proper design, appropriate communication, and commensurate monitoring for process effectiveness.


The proper design requires the business process to be melted, reformed, and refrozen (Kurt Lewin Change Model- The initial or current process must be fully understood through performing walkthroughs with key team members and visual mapping. Both of these procedures allow us to understand where potential issues and breakdowns may occur. Next, the ideal process is identified, documented, and formalized; the new process is visually mapped looking for any potential holes created or any lingering issues from the initial evaluation that were not fully addressed. Finally, once the team(s) are comfortable with the revised process, and objectives have been met, it is time to refreeze the process in its newly minted condition. Before a process can ever be followed, scalable, or replicated by a team, it must be formally and clearly documented.  Many organizations are lacking formal documented processes, leaving the company in a high-risk situation if something were to happen to that key individual or if that key individual decides it is time to leave, possibly even for a competitor. Without formally documented processes that are referenceable, there is no hope of moving into the communication and monitoring phases effectively.


There are other organizations that have process designs and schematics well documented and worthy of the Smithsonian museum; the problem is these processes are never followed or even respected. What went wrong? Likely, the schematic designer or process writer failed to obtain the appropriate buy-in from the team using the process, and thus ownership of the process fell to the individual who drew it, rather than to the end-user. Other times, the team has been considered and even had significant input into the design, but the communication process was mishandled. If the appropriate emphasis is not placed on the necessity for the organization and its constituents to follow the process, the best-case scenario would entail the team having had a good time meeting together. Oftentimes, the communication process is mishandled when the primary communication is handled over email, which is the worst form of communication for many things, especially for processes.


Other times, the design is immaculate, and the communication is flawless from buy-in to rollout; but the excitement that once captivated the team wanes, and we find the team back where they started. What happened? It is likely that monitoring was lacking, or worse, non-existent. Without enforcement, including incentive, we cannot expect teams to follow processes that add internal control infrastructure, save them time in the long run that cannot be seen in the near-term, or allow their work to be easily followed. This does not have to be carrot or stick; dependent upon the company and process, the monitoring should be tailored accordingly. Sometimes the monitoring of the process necessitates daily review, other times weekly check-ins, or possibly a monthly deep dive team review; regardless, the monitoring process must be consistent and persistent so that expectations are clear for those involved.

There are many reasons processes are ineffective, and almost always the breakdown is in either the design, communication, and/or monitoring phases. It is the responsibility of leadership to take the time, allocate the resources, and set the expectations for their teams to be successful. A good start is to revisit the procedures in place for process management and ensure the proper design, appropriate communication, and commensurate monitoring components are included and followed.

We are ready to work on process design and redesign, which will be covered next. Thank you for reading. Look forward to part two of this series on process design next month.

KHA Management Consultants is a boutique consulting firm based in Flower Mound, Texas, and is always looking for key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the process experts, and contact us at 972-221-2500.


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