Leadership & Productivity

I smell a skunk! Getting rid of processes that add little value

5 min read

15 October 2018

A skunk as you know is something that stinks, and nearly all businesses have them. These skunks are in your operation, your customer journey, your hiring. 

When I say a business has a skunk in its midst, I don’t mean the at-first cute black and white animal. The term “business skunk” refers to something that isn’t adding value to your business and may be actively detracting from it.

Say you had a problem with quality, so you added a layer of checking and that’s continued for several years. But you’ve never reviewed it to see if it’s still necessary. Quality has improved so you’ve left well alone.

But what if the problem was fixed at source through recruitment, training or development and the checker has not found a problem in 12 months? It’s wasting time and money and robbing people of taking pride in their work. It’s a skunk.

Waste really stinks and it’s the little things that collectively reek.

When was the last time you found yourself asking, “Has anyone seen the xxx?” Or think of a time you couldn’t go straight to a file you were after online.

“A place for everything and everything in its place”

Waste also occurs when we reinvent the wheel; I know I’ve been guilty of it. You know those tasks you do infrequently where you think, “How did I do this last time?” And you waste time going round the houses to get it done. You’re taking notes for next time but then you’re so relieved it’s done and your to-do list is so long… so it’s left till next time and round you go again.

How often have you added a step in a procedure without really getting down to the root cause of the problem? That sort of analysis and investigation takes a bit of time and you’re after a quick fix so you just throw money at it. But unless you’re lucky, meddling isn’t fixing. Similarly automating a process without first streamlining it can simply automate inefficiency.

Have you ever recruited someone because they weren’t exactly who you were after but they were the best of the bunch and it was an expensive process? How has that worked out? They might have worked out well but if not, how expensive has that been to your business?

As a customer just think of the last time you were infuriated by the hoops you had to jump through to get service. My pet one is telling someone your tale of woe having queued for 20 minutes on the phone only to be told that someone else has to help you and you’re back in the queue again. You feel yourself losing the will to live and unless it’s a service or product you really want, you just walk away.

Solutions for skunks

What you need is a helicopter view of your whole business, starting with a ‘warts and all’ look at your customer journey.

Working through the journey from start to end, ideally with your team, will show you the inefficiencies, the blocks and the weaknesses; you’ll be able to see how something at the beginning of the journey is causing a problem further down the line; or how you are a block at a crucial point.

With the whole picture in front of you, you can then make a plan to kill off your business ‘skunks,’ one by one.

Your business will never have smelled so good!

*no animals were harmed in the making of this article.

Marianne Page is the creator of Systems4Scale and author of the bestselling book, Simple Logical Repeatable. She has 27 years of senior management experience with McDonald’s under her belt, and a further ten working with successful small business owners, helping them to scale, grow and occasionally sell their business.