How to optimize your business processes in 5 steps

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Optimizing your processes and procedures helps you not only become more efficient, but it also prevents hidden budget leaks and saves resources you could invest further into business development.

Many guides as this one sound quite simple, yet when it comes to implementing them, there are bottlenecks. Some arise because of the rigid processes in place (functional resistance to change). Others arise because employees express natural, psychological resistance to changes.

When talking about efficiency, we emphasize both procedural and mindset optimization. It requires both factors to succeed.

Here’s our 5-step checklist that covers both factors.

Measure and identify

Measuring current efficiency is the first step in optimizing business processes. You can’t improve something you can’t measure, so the most important thing is to get a baseline. Here are the standard questions:

  • How much time does it take your employees to complete the task? 
  • How many working hours do they spend on it?
  • What’s the industry baseline? 
  • What are the costs associated with running operations at the current level of efficiency?

To include any type of resistance to your calculation, ask two more questions –

  • How much time did it take last time to implement a change?
  • Is it a worthwhile cost + resistance/benefit ratio to optimize this process?

Deconstruct the process

If the process you wish to optimize passed all the identification checks above, it’s time to deconstruct it and look for the steps that could be optimized. Sometimes we try to change the whole engine, while only one gear poses a problem for the system.

Questions that address functional resistance to change:

  • How many steps do we have in this process?
  • Do we need so many steps?
  • What’s the most time-consuming step?
  • What’s the least time-consuming step?

Questions that address psychological resistance:

  • Is this tried-and-true or just a habit?
  • If it’s a habit and we try to change it, would the employee be more or less efficient – even with proper training?

Include qualitative baselines about previous changes. Sometimes minuscule steps cause ripple effects.

Improve and automate

Now that you’ve identified bottlenecks and deconstructed them, one of the best ways to optimize is to automate low-priority steps, while effectively deploying the remaining resources (working hours) to the most important ones.

  • Identify the most important steps and strengthen them
  • Identify low-priority steps and automate them
  • Remove or replace the obsolete steps

This might be the perfect time to think about digital transformation, because automation requires adding new tech solutions and shifting the overall strategy.

Train your employees

Now that you have a list of improved steps and procedures, it’s time to create training for your employees.

  • Create new SOPs
  • Organize practical workshops
  • Organize mindset workshops

Aside from functional training, it’s important to organize workshops that handle mindset. Perhaps you had to implement new automation software and your employees worry if they could master new skills.

Workshops make sure everyone understands why certain changes need to be made.

Implement new structure

After the training has been completed, it’s time to implement the new and optimized process. To make sure you’re doing the right thing, follow these two steps:

  • Set up a measuring procedure
  • Create reports, available company-wide so everyone can see the effectiveness

Measuring helps you assess whether any significant change has been made over a certain period. If the analysis above is done the right way, the chances for successful optimization are high. The measurement serves now as a baseline for further improvement.

Company-wide reports ensure support from all departments and stakeholders. If they see the improvement based on data, it’s much easier to minimize the resistance to change.

Create a culture of learning and cross-departmental communication 

Cross-departmental communication and education are important because it prevents inefficient processes. The learning curve becomes a lot easier. Colleagues from different departments can fill in employees on sick leave if they’re familiar with the new processes.

Besides, a strong culture of learning puts all minds in your organization in the same growth mindset – the mindset that optimizes itself whenever possible.

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