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Is your company or department as efficient as it should be?

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There is more money lost in businesses today from inefficient processes than any other single area.  Yet this is not a place where most managers feel comfortable deconstructing and rebuilding.  Somewhere out there is a consultant or future employee (or even suggestions from present employees) that will provide the roadmap toward making your processes run more smoothly, more quickly and more inexpensively.  As a byproduct, process quality is likely to improve as well.

A more efficient way to do it?

 No matter what your company produces, there is surely a more efficient way to approach the process.  Start by carefully restating the goal for the process, such as “produce 500 quality units per day” and create metrics to measure the present output and quality (rejects or time lost) with this goal.  Look inward, forming a “tiger team” from within your organization to define the steps presently taken to reach the goal, and make improvements in increments that can be put into effect and tested quickly.  The best reward for those involved in improving a process is to receive the kudos from management and themselves for making dramatic improvements in their internal processes.

Consultants, outsourcing, and scrapping the system

If internal resources cannot handle the solution, it is time to find an outside resource that can.  Either way, someone must start with creating a map of steps from start to completion, breaking it down to measurable sized increments.  Look first at whether some steps are creating a bottleneck or quality breakdown affecting subsequent steps.  If improving individual steps is not the solution, then scrap the process entirely and attempt to define a way to meet the goal through a differing route, such as outsourcing parts or the entire process, doubling the capacity of a segment of production, or redefining the goal itself.

All these efforts will help you to better know the process to a degree you never expected to achieve.  And meeting the challenge of improving productivity is a great morale lift for all, as well as good business practice for the company and management.

  • Michael O'Daniel

    Unfortunately, efficiency is not a sexy topic. If it were, Elon Musk wouldn’t be able to cover up Tesla’s dysfunction with a never-ending barrage of hype.

    Alternate point of view about efficiency: it shouldn’t be localized or within a silo. In a true market-driven company, the CMO needs to be the person who knows about every process within the company, because he or she has taken the time to listen to the people responsible for those processes, and ideally has the capability either to suggest process improvements or know where to go to get that information.

    I call that MBWA (Marketing By Walking Around), which is one of my 3 great contributions to business culture along with VAAS (Vaporware as a Service) and HCRM (Human Capital Relationship Management). Feel free to appropriate any or all of these.

    My a-ha moment regarding process improvement came during a marketing consulting engagement for a company that was in a very niche professional services sector, and was in a potential market leading position but unable to achieve its potential because it kept repeating many of the same mistakes.

    We were scheduled for a marketing meeting with the CEO, a heavy hitter who had been recruited from Kelly Services, and he said “I don’t even have time to think about marketing, I’m always too busy fixing operations.”

    And I said (drum roll) “Well, then, maybe marketing begins with fixing operations.” Because if you can’t deliver on the promise of your product or service, marketing is B.S. anyway.

    So to the 4, or 5, or 7, P’s of marketing, you really need to add one more P, and perhaps put it first on the list: Phulfillment. (Apologies for massacring the language.)

  • Greg Solloway

    Great article, Dave!! I also have found it helpful to develop both internal and external metrics, tying in with Chris’ comments above. External metrics are very powerful to present to customers and prospects, showing “what it’s like to do business with us”.

  • Chris Brecher

    Dave, Love this article. I have used this approach to improve “Sales Ops” in several technology companies and I can vouch for the positive impact it will drive. Two additional thoughts: First, start with your customer and follow your process backwards. You’ll be amazed at how much wasted time & legacy/wasted steps you will find that frustrate your customers. These processes are the highest value in terms of developing happy referenceable customers, so this is where I recommend you start. Secondly, this same approach works when you think about Account Coverage by a sales team. Is your sales/field organization structured to invest time with your largest customers?

    • Chris,
      Thanks for these suggestions. Great addition to the post. (For those unaware of Chris’expertise, please meet one of the best “go to” experts in large account sales process implementation.)

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