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6 tips for refining business processes

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The proverb goes ‘a stitch in time saves 9,’ the origin of phrase being the sewing up holes in garments as soon as they appear, instead of waiting until the hole is so big it requires 9 stitches. You should be thinking in a similar way when it comes to refining businesses processes. 

Do quick tasks fast

This is an important one and should be implemented company wide. Too often we let emails pour into our inboxes, tasks build up in our to-do lists and ‘appointments’ – like 5 minute phone calls – proliferate in our calendars. We then think we’re submerged in work when actually we aren’t.

The answer comes in identifying tasks which only take a few minutes, and doing them straight away. This way you might lose a morning to a series of small, insignificant but nevertheless essential tasks, and have the entire afternoon to deal with larger, significant problems. And without all those little things niggling in the back of your brain.

Organise and file – but not too much

You need to remember the point of organisation: to put things in a place where they will be easy to retrieve. As opposed to putting them in a place in the hope of never seeing them again.

Employees will typically have invented their own methods for organisation, even ones they invented when they were children. Don’t try to change these just to be uniform, but offer employees the chance benefit from company practices.

Offer filing systems, desk space and computer organisation techniques to help them maximise efficiency. Offer these in the form of a document or semi-regular meetings and get feedback on which ones work. 

Seeking the biggest ROI for business processes

Making small changes to business processes with small rewards are a waste of time. Obviously, so are large changes with small rewards. Both waste valuable energy and initiative without giving back, so aim for small changes and large rewards and be ready to settle for somewhere in between these two poles.

How do you judge a good investment from a bad one? It’s a question of instinct: for instance if you plan to implement, say, a digital project manager for a task instead of using pen and paper or a whiteboard, you need to question how effective your current method is, and how effective you think the digital manager will be. Setting out expectations for each improvement will change the way you to implement them.

Look for employees staring into space

Not to chastise them, but to ask why are they doing that? Sometimes the working day can be broken up into ineffective compartments. We know that people work best in the morning and about half and hour to an hour after lunchtime, with work focus decreasing for the rest of the day. Therefore, it makes sense to delegate easy tasks at these less focused times of day, and harder tasks when employees will have the most energy.

Maintain feedback channels

Some managers, and we’ve all known them, are resistant to feedback, either because of stubbornness or because they have a clear idea of where they want to go. Make sure you’re the latter if you’re choosing to ignore employee feedback.

Regardless, you should keep an ear to the ground at all times: make sure you keep a check on employee satisfaction and take suggestions seriously. You never know what you’ll find out…

Clean up bad practices

Do not treat bad business processes like they’re a cross to bear. If something is taking a lot of time and energy, really think about how necessary it is. You’ll find for a lot of problems a cursory Google search will find a solution to it.

Too often as businesses grow they became unaware of inefficient practices which begin to slow that growth 

Finally, be careful about what advice you take (although this guide has attempted to be as a general as possible). Every business, like every individual, is different and you should be careful implementing new processes without a) consulting higher or peer management and b) consulting the people who will be employing it, your employees.

Doing this, however, should very quickly yield rewards. Growing companies especially are vulnerable to developing inefficient business practices as team size increases and the organisation becomes more complex. Keeping on top of these is important to remain as stream-lined and efficient as you were when the team was composed of just one.

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