Gaining operational efficiency is tough if you don’t know what improvements could look like.

Think about it — have you ever done something a certain way, time after time, and then a friend says “what if you did it this way?” Suddenly you’re amazed at how much time you saved, or how much better it turned out to be. (One of my revelations came from watching how someone else cut my lawn and then cleared up the sidewalks. Boy, had I ever been clearing my walks the hard way!)

Trusting the Systems

Similar things happen all the time with efficiencies that could be gained with the systems we rely on in our business. For example, do you have a document approval process that relies on documents being sent around to various people via email? That’s a common scenario, and it can seem to work pretty well – until the day it doesn’t. That’s the day you realize that the final version of the document didn’t incorporate suggestions from two of the key people who needed to provide feedback and approval. It happened because the process allowed for what we call “multiple originals.” In this case, everyone who got the document via email did their own editing to it, and the originator of the document didn’t realize there were now multiple versions of the document, all with different edits – multiple originals.

Another one we see a lot is backup processes created in the 1980s or 90s that have never been changed. On any given day, you’ll find people carrying backup tapes to the bank, or to their homes, to protect their organization in case something happens. There are better, more efficient backup processes that can save time – and save a trip to the bank with tapes. Best yet, they could even cost less and provide greater reliability – options like cloud storage, network attached servers, and remote drives.

Security is another area where there have been significant developments over the past few years. Server management is another. One of the most time-consuming tasks is user support, and there are great improvements that could be made there as well. Maybe you have an IT person on staff who is responsible for all this – but even a good IT person can’t keep track of all that could be done. In many organizations, the IT person is overwhelmed with daily tasks and can’t think strategically about your systems and processes and how they could be improved.

Stagnate At Your Own Risk

In my experience, there are three things holding businesses back from making changes to the systems and processes that run the business, and many times all three of these are in play simultaneously:

  1. Not knowing (or not fully understanding) what changes are available
  2. Fear of budget
  3. Reluctance to change

In fact, all three play into each other in ways that get rather interesting. Heck, I’ve experienced it myself, and I know there have been times when I’ve had the don’t-fix-it-if-it-isn’t-broken attitude. When change got implemented, only then did I see that my old process, while not “broken” in the truest sense, was definitely causing MORE work and in some cases, costing more money.

I’ve changed my mantra from “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken” to “doing things the way we’ve always done them and expecting different results is not going to work.” The fact is, if your business is growing, you’re having to operate at a faster pace than ever before. Expecting that old systems and old processes will support your growth may not work for you.

You can’t know what it could look like until you understand what’s possible. Once you have the facts, you can eliminate reasons #1 and #2 above and focus on #3. Perhaps knowing the answers to #1 and #2 will make you less reluctant to change?

It certainly does for me.