At some point, businesses big or small will run into the issue of wasted time which, by extension, turns into wasted money. Usually, it’s a case of the business owner or a manager becoming too involved with tasks that ought to be delegated to others.
To address such cases, time analyses should be conducted to identify the issues, which should then be documented. This can be as simple as taking out a piece of paper and writing down your observations. Many small business owners, however, lack the time or inclination to do this.
Larger businesses, on the other hand, tend to have so much documentation piled up over the years that extracting the right solutions from this heap of information may become overwhelming. Even if they already have processes in place, other possible obstacles include adoption, usability, or effectiveness.
In either case, it may help to enlist the services of a third-party organization. FUEL it was created to tackle these common challenges faced by businesses of all sizes. We have interviewed company President Cindy Ogden on how her team may be able to help your business establish systems that address these challenges.
1) Why did you decide to specialize in process improvement?
I have a passion for organizational development and new technologies. During my early years in human resources, I was always keeping up with the latest technologies, with a particular focus on how they can improve employee performance. I decided to start my own business to help customers or clients come up with a permanent solution to fix their problems. We put processes in place for learning to happen which, by extension, will allow behavioral change. My Lean Six Sigma Black Belt training complements this because I was taught to think in terms of measuring performance.
2) How do you pinpoint the exact problem that your client’s organization has?
It all comes down to documentation. We first ask them if they have documented policies and standard operating procedures. Companies grow very quickly. At first, everyone is familiar with what the standards were; but as the company grows, the ideas gradually fade from memory because they haven’t been written down. People end up doing their own thing. I want to see the documentation of the workflows and expectations. If we don’t have that, we can’t expect employees to follow a process.
Additionally, think of your employees like customers. With that context in mind, think about what can make their jobs more efficient. This will help in formulating processes that take the human element into account.
3) Even with documentation and knowledge of the problem, we sometimes still have trouble diagnosing the cause of the problem. How do you deal with that?
The diagnosis is a checklist. If you think the problem has ten possible causes, you should ask the right questions that can guide you to the right answers. It can even be as simple as asking your customers to provide feedback that can answer those questions for you.
For companies that do have documentation in place that was built up over the years, information overload is a common issue. It’s hard to dig through it quickly to find the right solution, so there also has to be a review process in place. Without one, you can get outdated information as part of your knowledge base. You’ll be asking the wrong questions and, therefore, you’ll be getting the wrong answers. You need a dedicated group of people that can review information on, say, an annual basis, and updated processes based on synthesized information.
4) What can we learn from your worst mistake as an entrepreneur?
In the last few years, the biggest mistake I’ve made is poor planning from a budget standpoint: adding resources and being optimistic about jobs coming in, onboarding before I had ink on paper. All entrepreneurs have felt this pressure to make quick, often difficult, decisions. I had to come to a point where I needed to realize that my excitement and optimism should not lead me to make rash decisions regarding finances and the hiring and firing process.
I would tell my younger self to make sure she had the money in the bank first and have a signed contract that the project will happen before planning ahead of the game.
5) What advice would you give to small business owners on putting measurable systems and processes in place?
On the training side of things, it helps to simply have documentation that employees can read so that they learn the processes put in place by the company. One-on-one, on-the-job training is also important. Then there is an online training, with which soft skills can be easily learned.
Focus on use cases: What are the problem areas that you need to immediately address or you’re most concerned about?
When it comes to cases involving time management, it helps to note down the amount of time you spend on certain areas and consider delegating tasks if you observe an inefficient use of your time in those specific scenarios. As a business owner, you tend to be involved in everything, and in doing so overlook things that could be remedied by implementing a new process. The goal is to start tracking where you’re spending your time and doing some analysis on what items are not adding any value to your business.
6) How do you make sure that you’re delegating the right tasks to the right employees?
Have someone put together formal documentation so that the task or issue that you aim to address is crystal clear. Sit-down with the employee assigned to that task and encourage them to think systematically about this potential new process (i.e. “If this, then that.”). Bring up all possible scenarios involving the issue for thorough documentation.
It is important to test out your process by having other people, who are not yet familiar with the issue at hand, to read through the documentation, and see if they understand it as well as you do by attempting to carry out the task. If you’re not on the same page, the documentation, or even the process itself, needs to be reviewed and revised for clarity.
Communication and regularly updating solution documentation is key to continuous improvement. Whether your business is big or small, knowing which systems and processes to implement is only possible when you look at your employees like you do your customers or clients: as people with wants and needs who are in search of solutions. Even so, it can be difficult for a business owner to set aside the necessary time to narrow down potential solutions while keeping the ship afloat daily. If you find yourself in this predicament, consider reaching out to Cindy to see how her team at FUEL it can help.
Homework: Before you decide that it’s time to invest in a third-party organization, think about what you can afford to do on your own to address your company’s issues. If you’re a small business owner, who could you interview to put together the documentation you need to start implementing a new system? If you’re a large business owner, how could you encourage wider adoption of existing processes? If you’d like to reach out to Cindy to discuss how her team of problem-solvers might benefit your specific business, set up a phone call.
Learn more about Cindy Ogden here: