What does your business do and how? How do people use their time? Are results achieved in the most efficient and effective way? Until you know the answers to these questions, you can be sure you are spending time and resources unnecessarily.
Many business owners and managers just don’t know where to start when it comes to improving their business. Often, over time, it has become too busy and changed too quickly that they get to a point where they simply seem to be running, ever-faster, on the spot.
So what’s the first step in untangling the threads (or knots)? The first step is to understand your processes. You need to map out each and every task that is, or may need to be performed; on a day-to-day business, periodically, occasionally and those that you may need to perform in an emergency (as part of your risk management strategy). To find out how to map out your processes see the Methodology page.
Once you have all your procedures written, or even just mapped out, you can define the purpose of each task and the value it adds to your products or your business. All processes must add value, otherwise you don’t need to do them! In leanspeak it’s called Value Stream Mapping, but you don’t need to learn Lean lingo to get a good feel for the value (or not) of each of your processes.
First, identify the purpose of each procedure that is performed. What does it achieve? Does it directly add value to a product, does it enable other processes to occur, or does it simply make your business a great place to work? (which is very important, too!) How much does it add, and how much does it cost to add that value? For example, a painted board is worth more than an unpainted one (even if it is not quite ready to be sold until it is packaged), so the process of painting adds value to the board. Refilling the paint container may not add value to the board, but it allows the board to be painted, indirectly adding value. Refilling the paint container is therefore part of the process of painting the board and its cost in time and materials has to be considered when you are working out the payoff.
Just identifying the result of a process can cause “light bulb” moments. Oftentimes, tasks are done simply “because we’ve always done them.” You may suddenly realise that a particular report is not looked at or used by anyone, or that a weekly maintenance is done on a guillotine that hasn’t been used for 3 years. Now you can look at each process and decide if it is needed, if the cost of performing it is in keeping with the value added, or if the result can be achieved in a different way: better, cheaper or requiring less effort.