How often do you take a good, hard look at the way you do things? It’s easy to become accustomed to your processes, and not notice that they get in the way of customer satisfaction, job efficiency, cost reduction, and other goals.
For a company to stay strong, its management must be nimble enough to adapt as circumstances change. Poor adaptation to change has caused the death of many businesses; think of famous brands from previous eras, and you’ll see that many are no longer with us.
Processes that once served you well may work against you as circumstances change. Here's why this may happen:
- They are simply outdated. An example is the facsimile (fax). A fax just creates an image, not searchable text. Faxes don’t integrate with other systems, and they encourage the wasteful practice of maintaining a paper-based system. Try to reduce reliance on this outdated technology, but think hard before eliminating it entirely.
- They have become bloated through a series of fixes or adjustments. Maybe your test equipment sign-out has become this way. There was a problem on one particular job, so now both the operations manager and the responsible project manager have to sign off on a permission card for it. What if the operations manager is out of town? Or perhaps you now have electronic means of closing out a job, but still file paper records in parallel because you’ve always filed paper records; this is duplication of labor.
- They no longer align with your business goals. Early in the life of your business, every sales person was required to cold-call 10 potential clients per day. But you’ve transitioned to mostly a maintenance contract basis with steady clientele and are no longer scrambling for any work you can get. Your sales people want to spend time finding qualified clientele and talking with them to build a relationship. To get the time to do that, they find ways to “check off the box” and waste those cold calls.
- They ignore current technology. Are your techs photographing motor nameplates before starting the job? Are they photographing safety issues they find? Are they sending payment data wirelessly to the office? Or do they fill out handwritten motor data sheets, fill out a form to describe a safety problem, and have the customer fill out a paper form for billing purposes?
Here’s a big tip that something needs to change. People complain about time wasted, work duplicated, opportunities lost, or other problems arising from the way they have to do things. Typically, these complaints are made among the crews and not to the management. You need to actively solicit employee opinions on how things may be done better. Putting out an employee suggestion box is seldom productive.
A better way to get this input is to hold a monthly process review meeting (it need not include all employees, just a representative sampling with different hourly attendees each time). Put up a schedule showing which processes will be reviewed each month, so the people using those processes have time to provide their views to those attending the meeting for a given process.
The race goes to the swift. Are you dawdling? Are you adapting your processes to fit today’s circumstances? Or are you still “fighting the last war?” Examine all of your processes with this concept in mind, looking for the existence of reasons such as those we discussed. The improvements you make could take your business to the next level.