Be Visual – See the Bigger Picture

As your business grows you will need to re-evaluate roles and resources and adjust how you deliver your product or service to your customer. This is can be a nice problem to have but opportunities also pose as risks to the business coping mechanisms. The important thing is to make sure the growth is sustainable for the business and that you design your processes so that they can maintain the harmony and equilibrium within your workplace. It is all too easy for fire fighting, organised chaos and unpredictable costs to creep in unnoticed until finally they overwhelm you and it’s just no fun anymore.

So how can we take a snapshot of how our business runs now, improve our processes to sustain our growth? How do we make sure these little issues that crop up are acted upon and don’t become the norm? My answer create pictures or process maps!

THE SNAPSHOT

There is a large body of research which indicates that visual cues help us to better retrieve and remember information. This makes sense to me when we consider our brain is mainly an image processor. (I believe they say that images can be processed at 60,000 times faster than text). Add that to the estimated value that 65% of us are visual learners and you will understand why I am so confident of the ability of a diagram to show us the big picture of our business.

By creating a flowchart, process map or similar diagram enables us to digest what is happening. The flow of work becomes apparent and individual roles become clearer.

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Quite often a new job role has been created to cope with demand or solve an issue; but when we see it in the big picture it actually obstructs data flow and work.

What I am saying here is not groundbreaking technology or new thinking, but an approach that some find difficult by themselves. In fact the larger the organisation the more complex things become. My advice is to get the following key things right:

• How you look at the business process and gather data.

• How you interpret the different perspectives from individuals on how things run within the company.

• How you simplify all of this into a picture that everyone can understand without losing the fine details needed.

MOVING FORWARD

Successful companies don’t ignore anything, they innovate and when it works they systemise it. Systems don’t have to restrict as they don’t cause these companies to stand still; they just help make every improvement a habit. There was a quote in Forbes from the Dijwans leaders (this was a company that had a good product related to mapping networks of web content but it epically failed as a start up missing the detail).

“A good product idea and a strong technical team are not a guarantee of a sustainable business. One should not ignore the business process and issues of a company because it is not their job. It can eventually deprive them from any future in that company”.

By focusing on your system you can change the culture to continuously improve. No longer will it be ‘whose job was it!’ because perhaps it is nobody’s job because there is a gap in the system that hasn’t been defined yet. Divert away from blame and get everyone focused on how can we make this run like a well oiled machine to deliver our vision. Teach people that it is ok to have an issue but only once as we always must learn from the experience and improve for next time. My final advice here is to have a structured approach to dealing with things as they arise, research and find the true root cause of any problems. I know that this is easier said than done for some so here are my tips:-

• Make sure the problem is contained and immediate corrective measures taken.

• Always ask, are there any similar processes that will have the same issues?

• Have you informed everyone that needs to know (including the customer).

• Make sure you spend time addressing the true root cause of the problem.

• Always evaluate the proposed actions, what is the impact on the rest of the business?

• Always evaluate your preventative measures to ensure they are effective.

One last tip on true root cause analysis, it is always the bit that gets forgotten. Once a problem goes away or gets corrected we automatically have other things that shout at us louder. Use your flowchart or process map. Think of the issue as being at the end of the chart, write one up with you problem at the end. Now start back at the very beginning and at each step ask the question “what am I doing at this stage that could have an impact on the problem?” You should find this an enlightening exercise and often it is not the obvious solutions that are the best.

So try some mapping, we must strive to understand not only the business vision and goals but the fine details of how we achieve them. It is the small changes that cost nothing that sometimes have the biggest financial rewards. For example changing how we answer the phone could double your conversion rate! It’s just system design. Strive for excellence and question the norm, we don’t need expensive lean business courses most of it is common sense just learn the tools out there to help you.

White-Tiger Quality Management & Business Improvement Ltd

www.white-tiger.co.uk

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