If you’re struggling with internal productivity and efficiency in your business, it’s possible that your processes are out of whack. But with a little optimization and process improvement, you can get things back on track.
The Need for Speed
Streamlining is the act of improving a process, system, or task so that it’s simpler and more efficient. It’s about reducing the time, inputs, and resources required to achieve the same output.
“In terms of business, a streamlined process ensures every step taken to complete a task is comprehensive, repeatable, and works towards an ultimate goal,” entrepreneur Chloe Henderson explains. “Each job may be a small part of an overall process or a separate event.”
Streamlining internal processes can take time and energy on the front end. You’ll have to consider processes from all angles, try different tweaks, and patiently wait to see results. But the long-term benefits include:
- Productivity. Greater efficiency obviously leads to better productivity. By definition, this means producing greater output using equal (or fewer) resources. Obviously, that helps on multiple levels.
- Employee satisfaction. Clunky processes and lots of friction are bound to frustrate employees. It makes them feel bitter and neglected – some even take it personally. By streamlining processes, work becomes more enjoyable and, as a result, increases satisfaction and retention.
- Customer satisfaction. Faster and more efficient processes eventually trickle down to impact customers in positive ways. Whether it’s receiving products sooner or having better experiences with customer service, greater efficiency leads to better relationships with customers.
When it’s all said and done, each of these factors contributes to a healthier bottom line. As you focus more on increasing the speed and efficiency of your internal business processes and workflows, the higher your profitability will be. It’s as simple as that!
How to Give Your Internal Processes a Boost
Any internal process can be streamlined. Whether it’s an accounting process that’s handled in the back office or marketing initiatives that are executed in the public eye, internal processes can always be made more efficient. Here are some suggestions:
1. Eliminate Communication Roadblocks
So many internal processes are held back by poor communication. And in many cases, this can be tied directly back to using the wrong communication modes and mediums. Email is one of the primary culprits.
Email is highly inefficient and prone to bottlenecks, yet continues to be one of the primary choices for businesses. Though it’s great for external communication and marketing, we recommend shifting away from email internally.
SMS for internal communications is a better option. It boasts a 98 percent average open rate (compared to just 15 to 20 percent for email). Not only that, but 9-of-10 text messages are read within 15 minutes. And for the average user, it takes just 90 seconds to respond.
2. Flatten Your Hierarchy
Traditionally, businesses have operated with what we call “tall’ hierarchies. This is where you have the business owner at the top, followed by the C-suite, followed by department heads, followed by mid-level managers, and finally lower-level employees within each individual department. And while there’s nothing technically wrong with this approach, it slows down processes and inhibits efficiency.
Under the normal hierarchy, an employee who notices an issue has to report it to his manager. That manager then takes it to the department head. The department head reports to the C-suite. After they discuss the issue with the owner, their recommendation is then pushed all the way back down the chain of command. Finally, it can be implemented. This process can take days or even weeks.
One way to speed up internal processes is to reduce the number of touchpoints an issue has to filter through. This can be done by flattening your hierarchy. This is where employees are encouraged to take more ownership over ideas and responsibilities through decentralized decision-making processes.
“The idea is that well-trained workers will be more productive when they are directly involved in the decision-making process rather than closely supervised by many layers of management,” Lumen explains.
There will be bumps in the road as you flatten your hierarchy, but the long-term benefits are obvious. Give individual employees more autonomy (within reason) and responsibility. Nothing teaches someone to make smart decisions like having to deal with both the positive outcomes and consequences of their choices in real-time.
3. Take a Chance on Automation
There are automated solutions for almost every business process. And while you certainly don’t need to implement them all, you should look for the low-hanging fruit. For example, if accounting is a thorn in your side that requires hours of your time each week, why not find a cloud accounting solution to streamline some of the mundane manual tasks?
Automation may require a hefty investment upfront (in some cases), but look at its value through a long-term lens. If something costs you $5,000 initially but saves you $500 per month indefinitely, it’s an easy decision!
Ready, Set, Go
Every process is different. But if you want to speed up how your internal processes work, it starts with being proactive and discerning. Identify the bottlenecks and points of friction, then find ways to push through these roadblocks and accomplish the same results with fewer inputs and resources. Sometimes the smallest adjustments can produce the biggest changes.