There are many ways to make your organization more efficient, but here are the seven most common ones I encounter in my work with clients. Remember, these strategies just focus on being efficient and need to be done in conjunction with a growth strategy as no organization ever cut its way to success.
1. Standardize forms and documents.
Wherever possible, ensure that the different departments in your organization are using the same forms and documents and have them stored in a central repository for everyone to access electronically. These standard templates make it easier for staff to get the appropriate information and also help customers provide data quickly and easily.
2. Use technology whenever possible.
Email, web conferences, Skype and the telephone are simple and inexpensive ways to reach out to more customers, suppliers and stakeholders without incurring significant travel or marketing expenses. Transaction-processing systems (purchasing, accounts payable) reduce the amount of paper used as documents are sent electronically. These electronic processes are usually quicker and result in immediate value for the organization.
3. Use common operating processes.
Ensure that everyone in the organization is following the same process when doing the same thing. These processes should come from a central directive body and compliance should be monitored. Using common processes ensures clarity with suppliers and customers and helps to set a common expectation of service levels. Remember these common processes should be used for frequent, repetitive activities and should be tied to appropriate measures of success that measure results, not the activities themselves.
4. Document employee responsibilities and accountabilities.
Everyone in the organization should know their role and their accountability towards the success of the company. Set clear expectations for everyone in the organization and how they will contribute to the organization achieving its ultimate goal, whatever that may be. Ambiguity in job descriptions leads to duplicate work and important activities being missed.
5. Solicit employee, supplier, and customer feedback.
The best way to retain good employees is to have them involved in the development of the business strategy. They will develop a sense of ownership because they help shape the direction of the organization. Customers know what they want better than anyone and suppliers can tell you what their preferences are around billing, delivery and maybe even opportunities for you improve performance. If you are not soliciting feedback from these three groups (and acting upon that feedback) then you are destined for failure.
6. Encourage taking educated risks.
Without risk, there is generally little reward, so create a culture within your organization that encourages calculated risks. Give employees the freedom to make mistakes so that they can learn from them, but include a structure so that the organization learns from and improves on its mistakes. Empowering employees to try new things and develop new ideas is one of the things that separates the great companies from everyone else.
7. Repeat steps 1-6 constantly.
Keep reviewing the way the business is run and make adjustments. Industries change, economies change, the global marketplace changes, governments change, so your business needs to constantly review if it is doing everything it can to run efficiently and maximize the customer experience.
Organizations must be flexible enough to adjust to changes in the business environment, but also consistent in the ways the business operates. Customers and suppliers should be receiving a consistent message from the organization, and this can be achieved through the pursuit of operational excellence with a clear definition of expectations and accountabilities, a culture that empowers employees to make decisions, and a feeling that the status quo is never good enough.