If your business isn't taking off — or worse, if it's going downhill — it's time to look for inefficiencies that may be plaguing your systems and practices.
If your business isn't running at top efficiency, you're failing. In today's world of instant access, social networking, and constant connection, working with inefficient systems and software could quickly lead to a series of micro-fractures that can bring your company to its knees. Though you may not see it happening at first, at some point the failure will become obvious.
To avoid this, your company must be working at peak efficiency. But when you're already deeply embedded in your systems, software, and managerial practices, how can you retool your company for a more efficient environment? Here are 10 tips that can help.
1: Don't expand too quickly
I've seen this happen many times. Businesses start seeing dollar signs and think that the bigger they get, the better their bottom line. Those dollar signs blind them to the fact that expanding too quickly means the proper systems and training can't be put into place. When you're small, your workflow is designed accordingly. If you expand too quickly, you can't properly adjust workflow, the systems that support workflow, or the employees who must manage the workflow.
2: Don't employ technology until it is thoroughly tested and understood
This is another issue I have not only witnessed but have fallen victim to. Companies are often seduced by the idea that a piece of software or hardware will make their workflow infinitely easier. A PR-pro can easily sway them with numbers and user quotes. But you can't always tell whether that piece of software is well suited for your needs and staff. If you're thinking about new tech, get a demo of it and test it before you buy it or insist your employees start using something that will, in the end, cause serious inefficiencies.
3: Don't make technology decisions unless you have considered the users
I've been on both sides of this coin, and I know how frustrating this can be. There are users within your company who, in many ways, know how things work better than you. They're in the thick of the workflow every day. Those people need efficient tools and systems in place if they have any chance of getting their jobs done. If you're about to pull the trigger on a technology decision, make sure you have discussed this decision with those it affects.
4: Make communication a crucial component
One of the last aspects addressed within business is communication. When communication is poor, work is inefficient. Period. Communication could be as simple as an open door policy or as complex as a content management system designed to ensure every single piece of work is documented. Regardless of what you do, place the highest priority on communication. Make sure staff can easily communicate with their fellow workers. Make sure the company can communicate with clients. The second communication fails, efficiency fails.
5: Use secure and reliable technology
There are times I have been on the receiving end of technology that simply doesn't work. When I work within an office, I make sure I can use a Linux box for the majority of my day because I'm far more efficient with that platform than any other. When you deploy technology, make sure it is secure and reliable. Having to work with unreliable software (or hardware) is one of the prime reasons people can't get their work done. Viruses, malware, underpowered hardware... it all adds up.
6: Prepare for disaster
It doesn't take a natural disaster to bring down your business. A break-in, dead server hardware, a disgruntled employee — many issues can cause a company disaster. Unless you have an effective means of dealing with disaster, you will be dead in the water until the ship is righted. And even after the ship is righted, it may take awhile to get workflow back up to speed. Make sure your disaster plan continues through getting hardware back up and running and getting users working productively again.
7: Don't create redundant management tiers
Micromanaging is bad enough. But when you add redundant layers to management, you wind up with too many cooks in an already complicated kitchen. Those managers can often wind up in a war of egos, causing further roadblocks to efficiency. Make sure your chain of command isn't clogged to the point of confusion and paralysis. If you expect efficiency from your staff, make sure the managers above them can also work in an efficient manner.
8: Don't give your employees more work than they can handle
You know when an employee quits and you dump their work on another employee, thinking you're going to save a dollar? That is one of the single worst roadblocks to efficiency you can put in play. Once employees reach a certain saturation with duties, their efficiency drops exponentially. If you don't overload your employees, you should be able to expect efficient work from them.
9 Have a sufficient network pipe to handle your network load
How can your staff possibly work efficiently if you have insufficient or unreliable data pipes? With a constantly clogged pipe, your staff won't be getting much done. As a remote engineer, I have experienced plenty of instances where a data pipe was either too slow to do my job or a network connection was dropped. This is one of those issues that's simple to resolve: Just upgrade your pipe. Don't let those things that are easily controlled caused problems.
10: If an employee has an idea for a more efficient way of handling a task, listen!
Sometimes, those whose job titles don't start with the letter "C" might come up with a brilliant idea. Not only will you benefit from that great idea, but employee morale will get a nice bump from the understanding that you trust and respect your staff. Besides, those staff members are the ones who actually have to do the bulk of the work — they probably have some killer ideas on how to improve it.
Efficiency should be one of your top priorities if you want your business to thrive and grow. Without efficient systems in place, each phase of growth will only cause more issues, perpetuating the cycle of inefficiency. Take a close look at your company. If you can honestly say that everything was designed and built for the most efficient workflow, you're already miles ahead of your competition.
Have you experienced inefficient practices and environments with your own work? What suggestions would you add to this list?