Who could have predicted that the unpretentious toilet roll could have caused a recent BA flight to Barbados with 280 people on board to be delayed by more than 5 hours – resulting in potential claims of up to £290,000. The captain said “in 26 years of flying he had never had such an experience that impacted on crew and passengers.” All because some simple items needed for the flight weren’t loaded on to the aircraft.
Although this makes for an intriguing story, you are likely to be wondering what is the relevance to your business? If it hadn’t have been toilet rolls, it could easily have been something else. These common mistakes are present in all businesses, all of the time. Everyday, menial tasks are often given little consideration, but are assumed to operate as we expect … continually. All hand-offs, decision points and junctions in processes carry risk and knowing which ones have critical consequences and their robustness is key. If the importance of process controls is overlooked, the potential impact of even small, ordinary tasks can be disruptive and potentially damaging.
At the heart of this analogy is identifying critical processes and proactively considering the potential weak points in them in order to pre-empt potential disruption. Yes, having process controls makes thing controllable and predictable. However only by knowing which processes are critical can you ensure the right control are in place.
To prevent surprises and ensure your processes run like clockwork, you need awareness and pro-activity. To help build these into your business, here are 3 easy steps:
- Know the critical points in your processes. Using mapping methods, such as flow-charting or value stream mapping, to identify the importance steps.
- Whenever possible, remove the process features that create weak points. If this isn’t possible then add a control, such as a checklist, Kanban, or mistake-proofing into the process at that point. This will provide a warning signal in the event something goes wrong.
- Review changes to your processes through a change control system. It doesn’t need to be cumbersome, but it is critical to stick to it! If it seems like a wasted effort because nothing ever goes wrong, then it’s probably working.
What exactly caused BA’s process to go wrong is hard to say, but it is clear that somewhere the process failed and was not flagged up by a control feature. In this case, it resulted in large downstream impact. Taking time today to proactively apply these 3 simple steps will pay dividends in both time and money in the future.
Gavin Jones, New Potential