Most businesses are running a tight ship these days and use fewer resources to create and provide top-notch products and services for their customers. In order to succeed, businesses must use their manpower and other resources carefully and efficiently which can oftentimes be a challenge.
All businesses, even the most structured organizations, can be plagued by the negative effects of processes that are disorganized, chaotic and inefficient. This results in incomplete, inaccurate or outdated documentation, duplication of efforts and inconsistencies in carrying out various processes. All of these issues cause stress for employees and management and can be very costly.
Most processes start out organized and manageable but, over time, small changes occur, inconsistencies happen due to personnel changes and “band-aids” are used to fix immediate issues without strategic thought as to the big picture. We simply make it work, rather than spending the time and resources on developing and implementing the necessary overhaul.
In today’s market, more and more businesses are improving their processes by implementing lean principle improvements. In short, the lean philosophy emphasizes the creation of more value with fewer resources by optimizing the flow of work. The outcome is a more organized state of operation.
Some basic principles to streamlining your process are:
- Focus on delivering value to your customer – The ultimate goal is to provide perfect value to the customer. Essentially, all customers want value. This occurs when the quality of services received is perceived as high compared to their cost.
- Improve the way work gets done – Identify and analyze all of the steps in your process. Create structure and ask questions. Then prioritize, organize into separate tasks, assign to the right people and empower those people to take the project forward.
- Eliminate waste – Eliminate those steps that do not directly create value for the customer. Eliminating inefficiencies and waste creates processes that require less human effort, less space, less capital and less time to produce products and services at far less cost with much fewer defects and provides a much simpler and more accurate information system.
- Maintain the flow – Test out your improved process. Strive to make your steps occur in tight sequence so the process will flow smoothly. Re-evaluate processes on a regular basis to ensure that you meet changing work demands. Train and retrain your personnel as necessary and make sure the skills of your team match the requirements of your business. This keeps your team flexible and ready for anything.
- Improve communication – Share necessary project details with your team. Allow them to ask questions and assist in resolving issues. Keep the lines of communication open with your team and check in often to make sure projects are on track.
- Learn to say “No” – As a business with limited resources, you can’t do everything. This is a fact that you must accept. Saying “no” is okay. Pick the best and most profitable projects for your business and focus on the most essential, value-adding tasks.
- Strive for perfection – Continue through the process and strive to create perfection – high value for your customer with no waste of resources.
If you follow these few steps, you will quickly begin to reap the benefits. In addition, you may be very surprised at some of the inefficiencies you find scattered within your organization. Becoming a lean, mean, efficient machine is an ongoing process and will not happen overnight. Be diligent and be patient. It will ultimately be worth the effort.