Transforming a business doesn't have to take thousands of pounds, management consultants or new training initiatives. It can happen through the smallest of changes. For example, a study found that when hospitals followed a simple checklist before a surgical procedure, death rates decreased by 40 percent. When Marriot implemented workplace flexibility, the company found that low-value work dropped from 11.7 hours per week to only 6.8 hours, and productivity increased even though the number of hours worked decreased.
Another company who cut their slow Monday morning meeting from 30 minutes down to 15 minutes and asked all employees to stand, got everyone’s week off to a better start and saved hundreds of thousands of pounds of billable time every single week.
The point? The most powerful innovation happens incrementally.
Often optimising processes doesn’t require spending more money or making cultural changes. According to a survey by Ask.com, simply moving managers’ desks away from the people they supervised increased productivity. But how do you know what you are trying to change? Start by making a list of all prescribed processes, regular meetings and systems in each department and for the company as a whole. Then get a working group to turn each one on its head---evaluating how else you could reach the same objective. For example, if it is a long and tedious staff meeting each week, consider just sending an email or having the person that leads the meeting create a video each week that is sent to staff. They can watch it anytime that day when they have a spare minute.
Whatever changes you want to implement, try this method for identifying, testing and optimising:
1. Experiment. When asking why you do things a certain way, don’t ever let your response be, “This is how we’ve always done it.” While your current method may work, there’s almost always a more efficient way to do things. Try something new, and see if it works. If it doesn't, you can always go back to the old way.
2. Track the results. All decisions should be based on a combination of metrics, feedback and your gut. Track how things go during a two-week trial of a proposed change, and compare your results to old data. For example, if you decide to tweak your email calls-to-action to convert more incoming leads, measure your click-through or conversion rates prior to the change so you can compare your results.
3. Review the change. When you discuss the trial, your team members may tell you the change worked great -- or they may say it actually caused problems. Accept their feedback and determine whether you should stick with the change.
4. Use technology. Using the right technology can make staff happier by reducing tedious admin, speed up the time it takes to do tasks, and improve the customer experience. A unified communications delivered as a service (UCaaS), in which your business phone system connects to your CRM platform, as well as your company chat and email can save loads of time recording calls and customer notes automatically. It can also tell service agents who is calling and what their last call was about with a pop-up on the agent's screen.
5. Keep learning. An effective Managing Director knows that you never have it all figured out. There is always something you can learn to make your business more efficient. One MD I know sets a goal to read two books per month, whether business-related, history or fiction. By seeking new ideas and approaches, he finds the keys to even better efficiency.
Too many people wait until something is wrong before they try to fix it. But increasing productivity isn’t about fixing a problem -- it’s about making processes that already work work better. Change doesn’t have to be monumental to make a difference. Remember: It’s the little things that count.
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