How often do you take a really critical look at how you do things in your company? Seriously. Processes are strange creatures that exist whether you believe it or not, irrespective of whether you actually set out to design them. This is what many empirical managers fail to understand. Have you ever made a cup of coffee? Is there an underlying process? Of course there is! How else would raw materials and kitchenware end up as an enjoyable and stimulating beverage on your desk? You have inputs, you follow certain steps and get output. Simple as that. So maybe every time you make a cup of coffee you do things a little differently. Get the coffee jar out first, get the mug first, warm the mug, don’t warm the mug and so on. And that’s OK. It’s just a cup of coffee. Why all the fuss? What if you had to prepare a hundred cups of coffee in half an hour? Or two hundred? If you do it a little different every time, you’ll be running for the hills laughing in a manner usually associated with villains in cartoons and vintage thrillers. That’s when you need to design a process and stick to it. So how do you go about it? In ridiculously simple speak, you decide which is the most efficient way to do whatever it is you are trying to do, lay down the process and then stick to it. Religiously. And as they used to say in the olden days (back when people thought things through before hammering out emails to fifty recipients) practice makes perfect. If you do it the same every time, as time progresses, things can only get better. Repetition is the mother of learning. Ad hocking it the mother of cock-ups. And a mean mother in deed…
So, take a look at whatever it is you are doing, whether it’s answering the phone and taking messages, or billing a client, or arranging for a delivery- whatever- and then see if it makes sense to keep on doing it the same way. Usually it doesn’t. There is always room for improvement, to use a cliché, and herein lie opportunities. Here be the smart savings, as the old maps say. Any idiot can fire half the workforce. It takes work, brains and leadership skills to manage change, even if it is efficiency driven.
Process re-engineering can save a lot of time and ultimately money. So where’s the catch? There is no catch, but do be warned: a process left unattended will degenerate. Such is the nature of the creature. Ever miss a gym session after religiously following a schedule for months? Then next time something turns up and before you know it it’s been three months. If you set up a process also set up the controls.
Put together the nature of processes and the nature of humans and you end up in a process improvement workshop with a lot of people looking flummoxed, at each other or the floor when you ask, “So why do you do it like that?”