What can bouncing a ball tell us about improving a business process?

I recently came across a story that explained the rationale behind the concept that there is no such thing as a fixed point in space.

The story is that if you bounce a ball that takes one second to fall and return to you, then the ball returns to the same point in space. However, due to the earth’s rotation, you and the ball have travelled 18 miles. Therefore, for an astronaut on the moon the ball has returned to a different point in space. This ‘proves’ that space is not fixed but based on an individual’s perspective.

What does a bouncing ball tell us about business process improvements?

Just like someone bouncing a ball experiences the ball fall and return to the same point in space, not the 18 miles it has actually travelled, a person carrying out a process will often experience only the part of the process they are responsible for and therefore not be aware of the path information has travelled, or the actual point it reaches. Couple this with multiple people being involved at different stages of a process, which can lead to an overly complex or inefficient journey.

This situation is what sometimes leads to cliches such as ‘that’s the way we have always done it’. This isn’t a sign of inattention or lack of care, it’s simply that this is the best way based on that person’s individual perspective.

How can a business use this knowledge?

Firstly, just like the astronaut is the person who understands the ball travels 18 miles, someone not involved in the process being reviewed is able to see the full pathway and recommend necessary improvements to reduce complexity and increase efficiencies in the process. This doesn’t necessarily have be an external consultant, it could be someone from a different area of the business with the necessary skills and experience.

Secondly, in the same way that once you realise the ball has travelled 18 miles since you dropped it you will always remember it. Once the initial process improvement project has been completed, everyone involved within the new project will remember they’re part of bigger collection of ‘micro’ processes. It is then everyone’s responsibility to regularly re-evaluate and adjust the end-to-end journey to ensure the process remains efficient and effective.

This sounds like significant investment!

A business’s processes are the backbone to its competitive future and success. While initial process reviews and updates do require investment in time and cost, one of the primary advantages over other change projects is that the benefits of streamlining and improving the process are often realised immediately. These benefits include:

  • Reduce overheads through more efficient use of resources.
  • More ‘real-time’ and accurate data supporting more informed strategic decision making.
  • Increased staff morale through having time to add more value.

Once a business’s processes are as streamlined as possible, this creates a solid foundation which can be used to further enhance benefits the team experienced. Whether that is through system integrations increasing automation and reducing touch points, or other software complimenting a part of the processes. The future implementation programme for this new technology will be easier and therefore reduce the impact of such change on the business and its people.

While it is common for SMEs not to have documented or regularly evaluated processes, there are many benefits to a business for embedding this approach into its overall operational strategy. To get the most out of this method, it is best to have processes reviewed by someone who is not involved in the specific process being reviewed. This will allow a wider and more holistic review, leading to a more streamlined and effective end to end journey.

If you would like to discuss what specific skills or experiences are suitable for a process improvement project, an ongoing or future project or process improvement training please don’t hesitate to get on touch with the CT: Evolve team at evolve@ct.me.

Author: Nathan Davis, CT: Evolve