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How to "Efficienize" your Business

By Jonathan Spence
Tue 11 Feb 2014
FYI, this story is more than a year old

I'll start by admitting it, 'efficienize' is not a word - although its use is becoming increasingly more common.

Whether your goal is to maximise the bottom line, stay competitive in your industry or provide a better result for those above you - running an organisation efficiently is a critical aspect to achieving any of these goals. This means maximising your resources, implementing superior technology/processes and most importantly of all, embracing change. All can be hard but change is often seen as The hardest thing to overcome and an organisation's culture can have a huge impact on this possible impediment.

Often those who are carrying out a task are so fixed in their ways or change adverse, that either they couldn't identify an improvement in processes they manage/work in or they wouldn't of their own accord ever suggest it if they do. There are a variety of reasons for this which include:

  • Lack of knowledge about alternative approaches
  • Focus on current process restricting lateral thinking (can affect even creative or critical thinkers)
  • Fear of "rocking the boat" or change that could disrupt a worker
All these reasons above have different cause, affects and remedies. For the first two points, these can be easily remedied; asking staff to spend a little time researching a process through tools such as search engines or asking professional networks can often open their mind to new ideas and "take a step back" from a closed mindset - the third point is more tricky.

For many SMEs resources are available often in the form of mentors, business coaches, professional advisers such as accountants and of course, consultants.

People in these positions will often look at key parts of your operation and provide advice around your process strategy. It's important to remember that while these people often have great opinions, at the end of the day it is an opinion and don't treat it as gospel. On the flip-side, don't discount it either, especially if they have better knowledge and experience in a particular field.

Speaking from my own experience, we at Xtracta have had similar situations arise. Since many of our development and research staff become so engrossed in their work, their thought train often narrows to just a small set of problems and solutions. By doing things such as:

  • Team brainstorming
  • Encouraging staff to talk with those outside the company with ideas
  • Read research papers, blogs etc.
  • Very hands on, challenge orientated management
  • We have been able to overcome closed thinking - for Xtracta, a company focused on developing cutting edge technology where hardly two days are ever the same, its critical.
Technology & AutomationImplementing technology to automate tasks is an easy way to improve the efficiency and productivity of your business. This can be as simple as learning a new keyboard shortcut to installing a new system which transforms your business through better process management.

It's not just computing where this applies - it could be industry specific plant/machinery, building controls, fleet management, it all depends on your industry. Also remember that what you see from the incumbent, well known suppliers isn't the only option. I'm a strong believer in considerable research which usually finds a far superior solution compared to what you may know of at a particular time.

OutsourcingWe all know about this so I won't go into detail - suffice to say it can be a really great option but with a strong caveat - it's implementation and management must be managed well internally. There are very few outsourcing providers who will provide a good service without close monitoring and a collaborative working arrangement with their clients (YOU). If you get it right, outsourcing can be an extremely effective way to make your organisation much more efficient and competitive.

ChangeStaff discontent with change can be a significant hurdle when it comes to improving your business' efficiency. In many organisations, change is met with trepidation and apprehension. "Will I lose my job" or "I'm too old to learn new ways" are common lines that staff often think when it comes to this.My experience working with staff who think they will lose their jobs due to an automated system has been that the feared job loss never eventuates. In fact I often see staff who were doing laborious and boring data entry move to a greater value added role which they find much more rewarding themselves.

Change | ManagementOne of the important things to ensure when change does happen is that it occurs positively. If implementing a new system is not smooth, colleagues who were disenfranchised with change before may have even more to complain about and a positive, change-friendly culture can be diminished. Plan change, go through every detail of implementation and "what-if" scenario and plan contingencies.

Change | Culture DrivenOften if the CEO and management team are enthused about improving their business, the culture then moves throughout the company. While organisational politics can always be tricky, I would encourage all who sit organisationally above all those who work to impede change due to misconception or unfounded fear - don't let it happen, work with your colleagues to embrace positive improvement for your organisation.

To read Jonathan's blog in full please click here.

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