3 Ways to Improve Business Processes

how to improve business processes

written by Randii Waddell, a TIN Coach

Our theme for November is Service Delivery & Quality Assurance. We have some talented coaches who are experts in helping businesses organize their processes and improve the delivery of their products and services to their clients.

Struggling to improve business processes? Are you stuck trying to accomplish a lot with just yourself or a few employees? You aren’t alone! Our TIN coach Randii Waddell understands improving and documenting processes and how to keep them simple. Here she shares three ways to get started, and they don’t involve thousands of dollars!

1. Map out the Problem and Create an Action Plan. 

When it comes to mapping out a process, like onboarding and offboarding a client, where do you start? If you’re trying to improve a business process, map out how it works today, or its “current state.” Creating a process map is as simple as using boxes with directional arrows to represent the steps in the process and the order they are completed in. Grab a clean sheet of paper and put your starting point in a box on the left side and your ending point in a box on the right side. Then add your steps in boxes and arrows to tell the story of how that process was completed today.

After you have your current state completed, it’s helpful to add all your frustrations or gaps with the current process. Use a different colored pen so they stand out. From here, you can do the same process mapping exercise you used for the “current state,” but instead create your future state. What would “ideal” look like to you? How would things flow? Keep in mind the gaps and frustrations as you create your future state process map.

Now that you know where you are today and where you want to be, create an action plan on how to achieve that goal. Some actions may be very simple little changes you can take today, while others may be longer-term changes to implement. Keep it simple and in a common language that makes sense to you. Then start taking action!

2. Don’t Focus on Automation in the Beginning.

I hear people say, “I need project management software, process mapping software, emailing list software, or to be on social media.” Do you know what you’re trying to do with that software, though? Before I get into automating a process, I want to understand what the client’s requirements are. What are they really trying to do? Then, we can work to find the best tool for them. Sometimes that may be a larger, well-known application. However, many times excel and word are just as valuable for small business owners and they are much cheaper than an expensive monthly tool.  Figure out the process first, then look for the right tool to help automate it.  

One other thing to consider is that your business process is never going to be perfect. There will always be room for improvement. As you are creating your action plan, challenge your thinking around gaps that say “purchase x software.” Will having different software really resolve the root cause of the issue?

Maybe the underlying process is broken and it wouldn’t matter what software was used. 

New software might be just a “nice to have” idea because someone else said they liked it, but it doesn’t really add value to your business model. 

Maybe it’s something that would add value but could wait a few years.

Automation can definitely add value to a business; but needs to be applied to the right processes at the right time.

3. Look for a Simple Solution.

You don’t know what you don’t know.  Most small business owners haven’t gone through week-long training sessions to become experts in how to improve business processes. That’s ok! Many times, the answer can be something very simple and cheap!

For example, suppose you have several employees who open your store on different days but do so in different ways, causing issues with how you want your store to be presented to customers. Maybe all the lights aren’t on, the displays aren’t straightened, and the register isn’t booted up, so there are delays in checkout. Instead of just fixing it when you come in every morning, create a simple 10-step checklist by the back door where they punch in. This will help to align all employees on the expectations and provide them with a point of reference to ensure they complete all tasks. Even better, ask them to help create the checklist so they have ownership in the process!

Learning how to improve business processes doesn’t have to be costly or complex.  Yes, some changes definitely will be… But many are simple solutions that you just need to be able to see. Taking the time to map out your current and future states will help you and your teams align on where you’re going and get everyone thinking about the small changes they can make to help you get there!

Let us help you!

If you need help sorting through the tools you are using and looking for how you can simplify, meet with one of our matchmakers. They will listen to you and help you decide if it would be helpful to work through your issue on the spot, or if coaching would be helpful to you. If it is helpful, they will help you find a coach that meets your needs and budget. There is no obligation or pressure in these complimentary calls.