Cross-Functional Improvement Benefits

Robert Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Leaders frequently employ process improvement projects to boost long-term business performance, and to build the competency of their people. In addition to the quantifiable benefits generated by these ventures, significant qualitative rewards are also produced that subtly strengthen culture and sustainability.

Since a process outcome is the result of actions taken by people, improving a process is best accomplished by those who experience the process themselves. Getting your people engaged in process improvement projects helps them discover how your business works; and because we learn best by doing, while they are learning about the business, these projects also help to develop their skills. The experience of making something better reveals to people how they make a difference as individuals and as a team, bringing your core values and culture to life. Confidence grows and initiative is encouraged as project teams share ownership of the solution and accountability for its successful implementation.

Leaders guide their process teams to discover why improving a given process is necessary, and how the enhanced procedures will generate sustained benefits for the company and them. Typical process improvement priorities include faster shipping, greater agility, higher quality, improved responsiveness, or better on-time delivery performance.

The most productive projects seek to resolve persistent constraints in the process flow, rather than the incremental barriers created when higher short-term demand saturates available resources. But exploring why these incessant constraints exist may lead to a root cause that exists beyond the control of one department, one imposed by another department upstream or downstream in the process flow, a barrier that is less readily visible and built into the cross-functional structure of the process design itself.

Collaborating with other leaders and teams to diagnose and resolve cross-functional constraints provides an opportunity to gain insight about one function’s impact on another, and how their cross-functional relationship influences the company’s overall performance. These projects challenge all stakeholders to consult and collaborate with their peers in other departments, and to find common cause in resolving a core problem that can improve their departments’ performance as well as that of the entire cross-functional process. And while these improvement efforts are often more complex and demanding, they reap benefits that are comparably significant, including:

  • higher cross-functional productivity and throughput,
  • shorter lead-times,
  • faster times-to-market,
  • more productive capacity,
  • improved responsiveness,
  • reduced inventory,
  • increased cash flow,
  • and greater profitability.

Cross-functional process improvement projects can be challenging, but they present affected leaders with the chance to deepen their peer relationships, strengthen their strategic thinking skill, and elevate their executive presence, while creating value for the company.

How might a cross-functional process improvement effort benefit your business, your team and you?

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