Tag Archives: process improvement

Now go over it again

Now go over it again

We are living in interesting times. Get over it. They will become increasingly interesting as time progresses. At some point they will become unbearably interesting and then we will have disruptive change. Until then, we need to make do with manageable change in the name of cost cutting. Many people talk about it and some companies and organizations pull it off but in their majority, small and medium companies get carried along by the current of everyday activity. At some point some people decide to look up from the task in front of them and take in what’s happening in their environment. If they are lucky they see the signs and avoid the rapids. Others spot, too late, that low branch or experience (too late) that feeling of nothingunderneathusness as they go over the waterfall.

So what is the underlying message? Just because you are keeping busy doesn’t mean you are being productive. Getting stuck in denial gets you stuck in outdated practices. Getting stuck in outdated practices will get you killed. From a business perspective. So what to do? The key is at the end of the previous sentence: “?”. Start questioning things. Why do you do whatever it is you are doing? Why are you targeting this customer and not that one? Why do you have “x” employees working on “this” activity. I may be repeating myself but, after all, isn’t that what best demonstrated practices are about?

So take an analytical look at everything that goes on in your company. Remember you are paying for it. Even if you don’t see an invoice for the specific activity, item or action you are paying for it. So do you really need it? Is this the best way to do it? Nine times out of ten the answer is NO. There is always a better way. So stop doing things that are not adding value to your company. These are the things your customer would not be willing to pay for. Like that expensive chair you love so much and which inspires you to better the service you provide. Try putting that on an invoice and sending it to your customer. Don’t want to? What else are you doing that you are not proud of? Duplication? If your process is not worth presenting at a conference and bragging about its benefits, you should probably be redesigning it. Look up process improvement. Start small. Mini projects with achievable goals, aimed at making your customer happier. Happy customers come back. This should be your goal in life. Which process would you not like to describe to an expert on the subject? Use the gourmet approach: you sniff and if you can’t put your finger on the ingredient you try to link it to the memories it brings to the forefront. If you can’t put your finger on what’s wrong with a process, use a similar approach. How does it make you feel? Safe? Happy? Proud? Shocked? Afraid? Very afraid? Then go and dig deep and don’t stop asking why until the answers you are getting are making sense to you. Do this often and for all departments and aspects of your business. How much are you paying for “X”? Why are you buying it in the first place? Is it adding value to you offering? Is John in Accounts adding value to your offering. And so on.

Start asking. Otherwise you won’t get any answers.


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Process revisited: The hidden cost saver

Uncover the smart savings

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?”


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