5 Steps to Simplify Your Business

Posted by Dewitt Bauer on September 25, 2014

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The business world has changed and so must we…. But how do we simplify that process?

We made it!  We survived the recession and we’re starting to peek our heads out of the sand with more confidence than in the past several years. But I feel like the Dad in “Blast From the Past” where he hid his family in their bomb shelter during what he believed was a nuclear attack.. When he came out 35 years later, the world was completely different and his family had changed too.

Business owners and managers are experience the same thing and struggling with many of the same issues. We came out of our bunkers and this is what we see:

  • A dramatically changing workforce that lives and works by a different set of principles than in the past
  • Employees who survived the cuts are now handling work loads of several people and are overwhelmed and overworked.
  • Work environments are no longer in sync with the modern day life of workers causing many employees to feel disengaged from their jobs.
  • Technology has become the tail that is wagging the dog as we are bombarded by so many means of communication such as emails, texts, tweets, posts, video chats,, blogs, general Social Media,etc. that we can’t keep up with the pace of communicating!
  • Processes have become cumbersome. Thanks to a litigious environment, Non Disclosure Agreements and very complicated, long contracts are the norm for every transaction.

So as the Dad found out in the movie, although things may have changed, we need to keep moving and find a way to change with the times. It’s the only way we can stay relevant to our customers and our employees.  But that’s not a simple task. Nothing is simple anymore.

So here are 5 easy steps to simplifying the changes we need to make:

  1. Start with a simple approach.

You need to identify what is important to you and eliminating or downsizing what is not. For those of us that have a lot of changes to make, the thought of doing it can be overwhelming and the result is – we give up and nothing changes.

Keep in mind that simplifying your processes, management strategies and means of communications is a journey, not a destination. What works today may not work a few years from now. When you run into a roadblock or encounter pushback from others around you, just keep moving forward and explain that by prioritizing and simplifying our everyday tasks, we can be more focused on the goals of the company.

Create a “Simplicity Statement” that describes what your company will look like after you’ve simplified it.

  1. Simplify the processes and daily activities at work.

Look at the tasks each department does to complete its work each day. Is there redundancy as a result of different programs being used in different departments? Is everyone doing unnecessary steps as a result of the CYA syndrome? They aren’t sure someone else will take the correct action, so they create their own methods of tracking or everyone is cc’d on emails just “to be sure everyone is on the same page,” causing a lot of unnecessary emails piling up in employees’ inboxes. When there is an overload of tasks to complete and messages going out that should only be intended for one or two people, it is likely many tasks don’t get done and all messages get ignored.

Focus on the most important tasks and eliminate, automate, delegate or outsource all of the other activities being done by employees.

  1. Simplify your management style.

Do Managers spend a lot of time micro-managing? Is there a daily or weekly report that could just be done monthly? How often are reviews done and are they too cumbersome?

Management styles are generally a result of a company’s culture. For an organization that has a large number of employees and wants more control due to liability, a culture of keeping a tight rein on each employee’s activity with strict processes and a lot of reports may create managers that spend an inordinate amount of time on unimportant details and not seeing the big picture.

In a small company, a manager or owner’s style of managing will create the culture. If an owner or manager believes nobody can do the job as well as them, they tend to spend a lot of time micro-managing which actually can minimize productivity.

  1. Simplify your schedule.

Does your company ever say “no” to a customer? Some customers are just highly demanding and your employees believe they need to jump at every request. That would be fine as long as those or other employees aren’t taking the brunt of those demands. This is where outsourcing may help simplify your job load.

Instead of over working employees and essentially burning them out, either stand up to your customer and try to negotiate a time schedule that fits your productivity capacity or prepare for those occasions by setting up subcontractors or other services that can be used as an outsource.

  1. Simplify Technology and Communications

Simplify your On-Line time.

Most people who access information on-line and receive emails have a debacle on their hands. There are bookmarks all over the place, emails are cluttering up the inbox (many unread), sites have been joined and forgotten, and there is a long list of people wanting to “connect” or “friend” them.

All of this has the potential to decrease productivity and cause stress by giving them a sense of complexity that really shouldn’t be there given the ability of technological solutions to clear the clutter. Avoid this by simplifying your online life as follows:

  • Do a massive purge of the things that are cluttering up your computer. Start keeping things simple and maintain a regular purging regime. It will take discipline, but it is well worth it!
  • Every month, go through last month’s emails and delete anything you don’t need to see again. The quickest method is to sort emails by subject or sender so when you delete messages regarding a particular subject or from an unwanted sender, you can delete them all at one time. Once the unimportant emails are removed, move the rest into a “Resource Folder”. It is surprising how an empty or small Inbox will remove a lot of stress.  Whenever you need to find an email from someone, you can go to the Reference Folder and use the many search tools available in most scheduling programs.

Simplify your communications.

Communicating with customers, associates and co-workers is a vital part of working in a business but it can easily take over your day in the form of IMs, emails, texts, etc. Limiting the times for communications can help you to keep this part of your work day simple and more productive.

  • Stop checking emails every few minutes. Turn off the ping noise that entices you to check new emails.
  • Keep email replies to certain times of the day. Make it part of your schedule, not a an activity based on reaction. Same strategy goes for IM’s and texts. If you have “reply to messages” at a set time on your schedule, it will be easier for you to discipline yourself not to jump to return a message every time one comes in because you know you will be reminded.
  • Make all return phone calls at a set time of your day. It could be at the top of every hour or just twice a day. But discipline yourself to schedule them, not return a call the second you hear a message.

Communication for a diverse workforce requires understanding how diverse employee populations perceive business communication. Some employees believe constant memoranda and employee meetings are time wasters and may simply tune out both the message and the messenger. Other employees want to be informed of every company move, and if they believe they aren’t receiving that communication, they feel undervalued and unappreciated.

Simplifying communications so everyone receives it in a way that is most beneficial for them is definitely a challenge. But it can be done with thoughtful preparation and flexibility in methods of communication. For a Millenial that feels a face to face meeting to discuss the state of the company is a waste of time, that company can offer a webinar broadcast with the same message. It may not seem that adding a 2nd method of communication would simplify the process of communicating. But if your workers are not getting the intended messages necessary to understand and do their jobs, the change you want may never happen.

Kathy Wilmot, VP of Wilmot Modular Structures, is a strong proponent of companies having a firm foundation of values and mission that never changes, but being flexible enough to strategically change how it effectively creates that value and successfully fulfills its mission.

 

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