The processes that served you well in the early days often break down as you add team members and increase your workload. Proactive owners or managers should take steps to rethink and revamp those processes and set the company up for success periodically to keep that growth going without sacrificing quality.
The problem that any business must face is that there is a big difference between a good idea on paper and a good one in practice. So, here are 3 steps you can take to work through this process and come out on top and ready for the future!
Step 1: Determining the Problems and Potential Solutions for Your Current Processes
The first thing to do is to clearly define the issues your business has with current processes. Sitting down with all of your teams and discuss the areas you are looking to improve upon is the best way to get the conversation started. It’s important that all of the different departments of your company represented as they may all have feedback to provide, or may be part of the potential solution. Keep this professional, specific, and non-personal.
For example, your Production Manager has had issues with the information they receive from the sales team and makes this statement:
“The sales guys are lazy bums who never tell me anything! Why can’t they all be like Steve? He’s way better than Bob!”
The problem with this statement is that it doesn’t clearly define a problem, other than your Production Manager is frustrated. What is the result of the perceived laziness in the sales team? It’s also based on opinions, which might differ amongst your team. Lastly, it doesn’t present a solution to the problem.
A better statement that addresses the same problem might be:
“I have a hard time knowing which components I need to order based on the information the sales guys give me on their contracts. As a result, I waste a lot of time chasing that information down. It would be better if we could have all that information in one place, on every job.”
Talk amongst your team, see if anyone else has similar issues to the problem you are facing, and then work out a potential solution. Get buy-in from all departments, and then come up with a strategy to put that solution in place.
Step 2: Implementing the Solutions
Now it’s time to implement the solution. The key here is to implement it fully, and then test the results over a few weeks or months.
You will probably hear team members complaining that the new solution takes longer, or is harder. Don’t let that discourage you, or allow you to slip back to the old way. That’s natural! Building new habits and processes takes time, and deliberate thought/action. Habits, whatever they are, are shortcuts that our brains build to streamline our lives and spend the minimum amount of effort doing them.
As a result, ANYTHING that is outside of that habit, such as filling out a new form, using a new piece of software, or processing paperwork in a new way, will take longer than the old way, whether it’s better, or not. That’s just the way our brains work! Let your team work out new habits with the new system they came up with.
It’ll be tempting to fall into the trap of “the old way was so much easier.” Of course it was. That was the way that didn’t require you to think about every step. Given enough time, the new way will become habit, as well.
One thing to watch out for is people doing extra work by using some combination of the new AND the old way resulting in more work, and more time. This is usually a sign of either a person who isn’t fully invested in the new process, or where the new process wasn’t fully thought out. As a result, it doesn’t serve them in some way. That may be an indicator that the new process needs some rethinking.
Which leads us to…
Step 3: Re-Think, Re-Fine, Re-Implement
Most people stop at Step 2. They come up with an idea and roll it out without ever putting thought into refining their original idea. There’s a big difference between an idea in a conference room and an idea in practice. Even if your entire team jumps on board with the new process, it’s very possible that the plan has some kinks to work out. It’s important to get the same team back together after a month or so and evaluate how well the plan solved the original problem.
Keep the same professional, specific, non-personal tone to the meeting, refine your solution, and re-implement it to your team. Repeat this process until you have dialed it in and worked out the kinks.
The Key to Success:
Remember, the key to any good strategy is to be flexible and make sure that everyone on your team is on the same page. Your business is always growing and changing. Don’t be afraid to change the way you do things and set yourself up for success!
Note: This article, authored by Matt Morrison, first appeared on the AccuLynx blog and can be viewed here.