We’ve made it beyond our half-way point on this 10-week exploration of productivity. Now is the perfect time to take a moment to reflect on the purpose of this journey. As we walk through complex topics like mental clutter and the process of change, we must always keep a purpose in mind.  Remember, productivity isn’t about doing more. It’s about making the biggest impact with your limited resources: time, technology and talent.

This week we are focusing on one of the more complex and time-consuming steps to being productive. While streamlining processes may seem like a never-ending task, or at least daunting, it is arguably among the most important and effective.

Week 6: Streamline Processes

Relatable to last week’s topic, Get Organized, one important goal to keep in mind when reviewing, changing or updating processes is simplicity. Many systems, strategies and procedures are overcomplicated, creating more work and ultimately more stress. Taking the time to regularly review and update processes can greatly improve productivity, perpetually.

Fun fact: The reason Streamline Processes is number 6 on the list is because all of the previous topics are involved.  If you need a refresher, here it is:

Week 1: Define Your Issues and Goals. You can’t begin to change or update a process or procedure without the why. Identifying the issues with current procedures and defining goals to make the new processes more efficient is the essence of the why.

Week 2: Be Willing to Change. Streamlining processes is all about change. Understanding the obstacles to change, and knowing when it’s time to change is essential before beginning the process.

Week 3: Know Your Resources. Not knowing what resources are available or how to use them is one of the biggest reasons processes become inconsistent and ineffective. We must know who is doing what and how before we agree on the right way for everyone involved.

Week 4: Discover Your Focused Time. Like I said at the beginning of this journey…everything boils down to time in the end. We can’t create more time, but we can create more efficient processes that make better use of time.

Week 5: Get Organized. Simplify. Simplify. Simplify. Getting rid of excess absolutely applies to processes and procedures. Eliminating unnecessary steps and simplifying the remaining steps are the key to productive processes.

Steps to Streamline Processes

  1. Make a list. Take an inventory of the processes that your business uses on a daily basis. Decide which processes you’re going to tackle.
  2. Create focus groups. This is a great opportunity to get your high performers involved in a special project. Select a few individuals who use the identified processes on a daily basis, and get them rolling on step number 3.
  3. Dissect and scrutinize. Here’s where you break it down. Don’t leave anything out, and question everything. What’s working well? What needs improvement? What tools are being used, or should be used but aren’t?
  4. Make decisions. This is the most important step. Make decisions about how the workflow should flow. Sometimes that means tweaking minor details, and sometimes that means scrapping the entire process and starting from scratch.
  5. Bring it back to the users for feedback. Now is the time to step outside of the focus group and take the newly structured process back to the people who use it regularly. Accept candid feedback, which will bring you to step 6.
  6. Make appropriate changes. Even when you think you have the perfect finished project, there are bound to be some bumps and bruises once it reaches the real world. Go back to step 5, and proceed.
  7. Make it official. Once all of the bumps and bruises are healed, make the process an official Standard Operating Procedure, version it, and schedule periodic reviews. Make sure all employees that use the process sign off that they understand the workflow.

The success of your business relies on efficient processes, which means more time used on impactful projects and less time wasted on mundane tasks. If you’re still not sure where to start, or if the job is too big for your resources at hand, consider getting help.  By the way, Get Help is next week’s topic.

Great things in business are never done by one person.  They’re done by a team of people.  – Steve Jobs

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