10 Steps to Simplify Your Business
Founder of Apple
Every business I've worked for or engaged with has unneeded business complexity. Things I've seen include numerous manual processes, adding people to fix a process that should be simplified instead, leaving meetings thinking "what just happened in the last hour of my life", multiple applications and/or vendors that do the same thing, and multiple systems that are not connected requiring confusing sleuthing.
To mitigate business complexity issues as well as prevent them, business simplification efforts should always be a priority.
Have you seen some of these examples that I've experienced?
As any business grows, the complexities grow with it. Dozens if not hundreds of processes, tasks and projects must be managed all the while trying to operate at a high level of efficiency. Simplifying is essential for businesses at every level -- both big and small. Doing so will help you streamline operations and save time (and money) which you can then put towards growing your business instead.
To simplify your business, it entails reducing the number of tasks that your employees are expected to carry out. It also means automating as many repeating tasks as possible, allowing employees to spend more time on strategic activities that lead to growth. You don’t have to operate a large business in order to reap the benefits in simplification; with just a few small changes, you can start seeing results right away.
Most processes can be optimized and improved. I've found the best way to do this is to lay out each step of the process visually, identify what value that step adds to the process and ask yourself what if I deleted it, what would happen (if the answer is nothing, delete it). Think about lean optimization. Then go into automation....
The more you automate, the more time your employees can spend on strategic activities that lead to growth. The first step is to identify what repetitive tasks can be automated. Work with your team to decide which tasks can be done by technology or software and which ones require human interaction. For instance, if it’s possible for your employees to log into a computer program and input information, then those tasks should be automated.
If those tasks are not in a software program or cannot be done by an employee, then consider investing in an automation tool or looking at digital transformation. Automation tools will allow you to streamline operations and save time (and money) which will allow you to put that time back into growing your business instead of dealing with repetitive tasks.
Don't automate everything, focus on key processes that make the biggest impact. Also, measure the processes and results to ensure you're driving the improvement you expect.
Process optimization and automation are the most critical pieces to simplify your business.
In order to simplify your business meetings, one of the best things you can do is reduce unnecessary meetings. Many companies spend way too much time in meetings – that’s time that could be better spent elsewhere. A lot of meetings are unproductive -- they take up time without adding much value.
They also create unnecessary stress, which can lead to poor decision-making and morale issues down the road. In addition, scheduling meetings can be difficult and cumbersome, which means you have less control over when employees are available.
A few techniques to solve for this include ensuring that all meetings must have an expected outcome and agenda (that gets you to the outcome). Only invite the key people who are needed to achieve the outcome. And verify that you achieved the outcome at the end of the meeting. Follow-up with meeting notes.
The first step in to simplify your business is holding yourself accountable for the results. Are you tackling the most important tasks, or are you just doing what needs to be done? Do you tend to procrastinate with other tasks or processes and have no idea where your time is going? Simplification requires a lot of self-reflection and accountability -- some people might not be willing to take on these responsibilities.
If that’s the case, then keep it simple by taking on fewer tasks at once, using an accountability partner or hiring a virtual assistant. To simplify all facets of your business, set clear goals and objectives for what you want to accomplish. By prioritizing smaller items that need attention, those who are tasked with completing them will feel more involved in the process.
Your employees are the key to your business’s success, and you should take time to get to know them. Spend time with each employee, get their feedback on what they want from their job and what motivates them. How their job is going -- what works well and need improvement?
A better understanding of your employees will help you find ways to increase productivity through simplification. You can use this information to fine-tune your work process and include things that make your staff happier on the job. For example, if an employee is struggling with any one step in a particular process, sit down with that person and find out exactly where they are struggling so you can fix it or figure out how to improve it entirely.
One way to simplify your business is to build an office culture of transparency, criticism and feedback. You want your employees working in a healthy work environment that fosters creativity and positivity. Encourage employees to voice their opinions and provide honest feedback on how they feel about their work.
They'll be more motivated when they know you're listening to them, and they'll develop stronger relationships with each other as a result. The best way to be transparent is to make sure you're always open for communication and feedback in return.
One of the easiest ways to simplify your business is to create an employee training program. This will help employees learn their responsibilities, develop skills and gain knowledge that will be relevant in the future. For example, you can have your employees fill out a form that outlines their job description, specific responsibilities and gives them feedback on what they have learned from each training session. This will give them a foundation for further education, opening the door for continued growth.
Another effective way to simplify is to limit your time spent on tasks like paperwork -- which means spending less time shuffling through boxes at the end of each day. Finally, you should consider automating as many tasks as possible. Resources like Zapier or IFTTT can automate many repetitive tasks so that employees spend more time on strategic activities that lead to growth instead of doing the same thing over and over again.
This is one area I haven't seen much time devoted to. To simplify your business look at reorganizing your internal process network. What is the Internal Process Network? It is how information flows through your organization. It shows who is responsible for certain tasks, what's prioritized, and where in the company issues can be raised or problems solved. As you map out this network, remember to prioritize the tasks that are bringing the most value to your business. Consider again, lean methods.
This means prioritizing those tasks that contribute directly to sales and profit as well as those that will provide employees with new opportunities to learn and grow their skills. A good place to start when organizing your process network is by asking yourself these three questions: What are my employees doing? What do they need help with? Where can I save resources and money?
As you roll these key steps into regular business operations, you're well on your way to simplify your business.
Does your business have a focus that allows you to simplify your business?