Process is Not a Dirty Word

“Process” is a good word when it aligns operations with a business strategy, but business owners with a focus on results often fear the concept of process as a time waster – or worse, a money waster. To sell process and infrastructure to a startup leadership team, a consultant or in-house specialist must be able to identify and to quantify the time and money wasters that exist in the absence of constructive and efficient process. Below are a couple communications examples.

Meeting Mania

How much time does your staff spend in meetings? Quantify the cost by hours and the hourly salary cost per attendee to establish an annual cost. Are the meetings scheduled or ad hoc? In either case, insist on an agenda and stick to the agenda. Meetings should end with action plans and accountabilities. Do meetings interfere with the rhythms of your work flow? Attendees should have input into the time of day/week that required meetings occur to respect customer needs and deadlines. Alternative communication processes can increase the efficiency of information exchange and decision paths so that less effective meetings and/or the number of attendees can be reduced. Quantify the cost after these changes and communicate the process savings.

Here is a great graphic from Harvard Business Review to help with your analysis:

HBR: Should you have the meeting?

Spreadsheet Mania

Examine reports being generated and ask the following four questions:

1. Is the information being presented unique or can it be found elsewhere?

2. Can the information be communicated in a different format or forum, such as a dashboard or at the standup meeting?

3. Is the distribution list thought out and appropriate?

4. Is the time spent on generating the report proportional to the value of the information?

Reporting, like meetings, can be quantified as a cost to the organization based on generation time and the time for the distributees to read the report multiplied by the associated salary cost. Double check the value of the report to the people receiving it and eliminate any waste or redundancy. Again, quantify the savings generated by process improvement.

Keeping It Real

I recommend starting with easy wins with quick results like the above examples before you launch into a complex reengineering initiative. Process must be flexible to respond to organizational changes and focused on eliminating wasted time and money. It doesn’t have to be complicated: a handful of purposeful metrics combined with a rapid cycle feedback loop allows employees to devote more time to key business strategies during the hectic growth phase of startups.

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