Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I’m guessing that he didn’t arrive at his famous E=mc2 equation on the first try, and I’m sure he didn’t use the same steps each time he failed, expecting to get the right answer.
At your business, you go through dozens of processes each and every day. For example, you may go through the same steps each time you create a document, resolve a complaint, or contact a new client. These processes that you use are the heartbeat of your business. When a problem arises within your organization, one of the first things you should do is examine if the issue is a symptom of inefficient business processes. A single broken process can quickly snowball into unhappy customers, overburdened employees, time wasted, and money lost. Heeding Einstein’s advice, if you want your outcome to change, then you must change your process.
One industry that is constantly evaluating its processes and procedures is the banking industry. There are strict rules laid out by the federal government that require financial institutions to do routine and random audits of their processes. This is great for the consumer (us) because, well…they’ve got our money! If banks don’t conduct these audits when they are supposed to, they can incur major fines and sanctions for not being in compliance. The result of their constant review and fine-tuning are processes that are incredibly efficient.
I think all of us should take a page from the banker’s book when it comes to looking at our own business operations. We need to become “reflective practitioners”, constantly evaluating and refining our processes to make sure they are facilitating our organization’s peak performance. Here are the steps you should take to review and refine your business processes.
Observe and Get Feedback
Don’t make any changes right off the bat. Take some time to observe the processes you use often and find the flaws. It is imperative to get feedback from the employees who are carrying out these processes. They will know where the pain points are and will likely have some great ideas for improvements.
A good visual aid can work wonders. Creating a flow chart or diagram of the process can reveal weaknesses and show things you may have missed. Map out all the steps and details of the process, considering a range of possible circumstances and unforeseen events. Your end goal is to create a process that is dynamic and flexible because there are probably outside variables that will make each situation a little bit different. Steps will sometimes need to be skipped or added on a case-by-case basis.
Make the Change
A word to the wise: don’t jump the gun. Sometimes a process needs such a major overhaul, you can’t wait to get started. But changing things too quickly and too soon can do more damage than good. You should start by implementing changes that you know will cause the least disruption and carry the most improvement.
Communicate and Train
You obviously cannot expect someone to carry out a new process without knowing about it first. But when teaching the process, don’t just go through the steps; be sure to communicate the reasoning and strategy behind the process. When your staff understands what the goal is and how this new process helps them achieve that goal, they will be more likely to adopt it. Make sure everyone understands WHAT the process is, WHEN to carry out the process, WHERE to perform the process, WHY they are performing the process, and HOW to perform it. Be sure to also discuss the different scenarios that may call for a slightly adapted process.
Review. Review. Review.
Being a reflective practitioner is not a one-time gig. It requires you to constantly evaluate the processes you use and redevelop them as your business grows and your industry changes. Audit all of your processes, whether they are old or new. Remember, if a process isn’t working anymore, it doesn’t mean it is a failure, it just means it’s time for a tune-up. Get feedback, map it out, and make the change.
For more tips on how to become a reflective practitioner or for questions on streamlining other operational processes within your organization, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Bryan Reynolds is TBI’s Manager of Sales Operations. He designs and implements the company’s sales organization processes, working closely with internal sales teams, partners, and providers to facilitate a culture of efficiency and continuous process improvement. You can contact Bryan at email@example.com or connect with him on LinkedIn.