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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Is Your Business Run This Way Too?

Business people are keen to tell you they have a business plan, that there is method in their madness and that that they try to approach their business systematically.

Such must always have been the case as Edgar Allan Poe in “The Business Man” says:

“I AM a business man. I am a methodical man. Method is the thing, after all. But there are no people I more heartily despise than your eccentric fools who prate about method without understanding it; attending strictly to its letter, and violating its spirit. These fellows are always doing the most out-of-the-way things in what they call an orderly manner. Now here, I conceive, is a positive paradox. True method appertains to the ordinary and the obvious alone, and cannot be applied to the outre. What definite idea can a body attach to such expressions as "methodical Jack o' Dandy," or "a systematical Will o' the Wisp"?“

The reason I bring it to your attention is that having been in business now for some years I’ve had the opportunity to go into a large number of companies ranging from global blue chips to one man bands.

There are always ways of doing things in these companies. Purely because people need a consistent approach to common issues.

And the interesting thing is that in almost all cases the processes have grown and grown without any thought as to whether they are the best for the company and its clients.

If the process is not aimed at improving the experience for the client and the company profits it’s going to fall short of that target.

The result is a less than optimised system.

Resulting in lower profits.

What to do about it?

I recommend that you look at all your processes. Get them documented.

I don’t mean document them the way ISO9001 et al specify - usually from the top down. I mean document (in English) who does what, with what and to whom and what are the inputs and outputs.

Then look at all the processes and start to review them in this way:

  1. Does this company or its clients benefit from this process? If neither benefit stop doing it.
  2. Can we improve how this process works to benefit the client?
  3. Can we improve how this process works to benefit us whilst still delivering client value?
  4. Is the current process due to a lack of training?

Then once you’ve amended the processes review them again to make sure they are all still appropriate. Because there’s a risk that you’ll change one process that affects another but not change the affected process. The result a new process to correct comes into existence without your knowledge!

This echoes Dr W. Edwards Deming focus on continuous improvement.

That way your company improves all the time, step by step. If you improve by 1% per week think how much improvement you’ll make in 12 months?

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