How to Develop Efficient Processes (to Lessen Your Workload)
“Don’t confuse activity with productivity. Many people are simply busy being busy.” This quote by Robin Sharma describes all too many workplaces. When employees are hustling, moving, and meeting, it may seem like progress must surely follow. Unsurprisingly, many managers end up with burned-out workers and little progress.
It is more cost-effective to focus on efficiency and results, and it is vital to your company culture. The law of diminishing returns is eventually activated by working more hours or adding more staff. If you don’t streamline your processes to alleviate busy work and unnecessary manual tasks to allow your employees to succeed, they’ll eventually leave. By developing and revising business systems to work more efficiently, your workforce can improve output, increase profits, and facilitate expansion.
Analyze Your Process and Identify Key Areas of Focus
You can’t possibly identify areas of focus in your business processes without understanding what you have. You must establish a starting point or a baseline to measure progress as you drive your business forward. Taking the time to understand the steps your employees take to perform their job functions lets you uncover inefficiencies and wasted effort. This analysis will give you the blueprint you need to make critical adjustments.
Initial steps for analyzing your as-is processes involve doing your research through shadowing or interviewing the employees and documenting your findings. You should now be able to identify potential or existing bottlenecks, as well as process or communication gaps. Once you know which processes need improvement, you can prioritize them based on which adds the most value in achieving organizational goals. Now you are ready to map out your to-be or future state processes.
Prioritize Your Essential Work
You likely have an impressive list of potential improvements. Don’t be intimidated. Everyone has the potential to improve if they have honestly and objectively analyzed how they currently operate. Your job now is to weed out what is most necessary and possible to change to narrow the focus. The revised, prioritized list should align with your company’s strategic objectives to make the most impact.
Focusing on essential parts of the process results in the highest value improvements. The most urgent needs typically fall within these areas:
- Customer relationships
- High profile activities that create the most perceived value to the customer
- Information or activity handoffs
- Standard procedures
When documenting your as-is and to-be business processes, it is essential to follow a standard flowchart design so you can maintain consistency and easily teach others to use it. Identify who is responsible for the tasks by creating lanes. Identify all tasks, initiating events, and relationships between the steps to show the chain of events and handoffs. Finally, show what signals the end of the process or task.
Automate What You Can
Automating and outsourcing your processes helps alleviate the work from your internal team. Process automation reduces errors, increases quality, and improves efficiency. It also streamlines onboarding for new employees. Removing unnecessary manual tasks is one part of the equation. Outsourcing is another step that can significantly improve productivity in your internal team while delivering exceptional results.
Look at what you could improve by assigning outside teams with specific expertise in the process. For instance, if you want to improve your marketing efforts, improve your brand awareness, and increase your reach, you could hire an external team to develop your radio ads. To ensure you continue to meet or exceed your marketing goals, you may have them automate your digital marketing systems. Why waste time and effort in your internal teams when they can focus on their areas of expertise?
Test and Refine Your Workflow
Making improvements to your workflow is an iterative process. Like any new effort, you should test the results before making permanent changes to ensure you are on the right track and prevent unanticipated impacts down the line. Observe, adjust, and refine the new process as needed until you achieve the expected results. Preliminary testing, if successful, can give you a baseline metric for measuring progress as you implement it on a broader scale.
Process improvement should be an ongoing process. Changes in demand, technology, worker availability, and many other factors will naturally change over time. You may see that you aren’t achieving the growth or efficiencies needed to sustain your operations. For the best results, you should reassess your processes quarterly or annually. Continuous revision is critical for your ongoing success.
Continuous Improvement Is the Key To Higher Productivity
If you aren’t yet convinced that being busy doesn’t equal being productive, look at a typical day in most households: you ask your kids to clean their rooms. They get busy pulling things out from under the bed and dumping their backpacks. Then, they realize they need a form signed for school. That’s right before they have to rush around looking for their now buried shoes for soccer practice.
At the end of an hour, they’ve been legitimately busy. However, the room is likely a worse mess than before. In reviewing the chain of events, you see opportunities to establish after-school processes to eliminate chaos. The same is true for companies everywhere: running around doing unnecessary, unproductive tasks prevents progress and inhibits productivity. Efficient processes cut down on costs and wasted effort while facilitating future growth.
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