Don’t let your company choke on this

May 3, 2017 by Karen Que

“We’ve always done it that way.”

How many times has this excuse been given to explain an elaborate system that no one understands? Too many.

Systems and processes are vital to a company’s growth. But if a company has too many, it can choke that progress and frustrate employees. There has to be a balance that allows for consistency and quality without cutting off the creativity that’s needed to progressively move your company forward.

It’s not hard to lose control of your systems. It can start with something as simple as a mixed up order. To correct the problem, someone in management adds a few extra checks. Before you know it, your ordering system requires an employee to write the order, a manager to review it and send it to corporate, someone at corporate reviews it and confirms the order with the manager, who then sends it to the warehouse where more checks have to be performed.

By the time the order is delivered, it has been reviewed by 18 different employees, instead of four.

There’s a way to come back from such overregulation, but you have to be willing to look at your systems and processes really hard. Unfortunately, there usually has to be some kind of major crisis for a company to stop what it’s doing and start to look into each system individually. By this time, the company is past its peak number of systems and things are already out of control. And the only explanation is, “We’ve always done it that way.”

Instead, you can plan to measure your systems against the best practices for your industry every three to five years. A large company might spend a year doing such an audit, while a small company might only take a week.

If you find there’s an area that’s working too slowly, then you have an opportunity to fix it. One of the most important steps is to talk to the people running each system to find out what works best and what are their biggest challenges. Looking at those answers as a whole across all of the systems will very quickly tell you how well things are running.

By this point, everyone has their own sandbox that they’re in charge of and they don’t want anyone else to play in it. But to return to your peak, you have to combine some of the sandboxes and reduce the number of control gates that employees have to pass through. Instead of having four sandboxes, there should only be one.

When systems start to burn out your employees, instead of helping them get things done efficiently and consistently, it’s time to streamline your operation. Before long, your employees will start to say, “We don’t do it that way anymore.”

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