How to Simplify Your Business Processes – A War on Complexity

Over the years I’ve watched many things get more complicated. Take communication for example: the addition of mobile phones, video conferencing, sms, email, Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter and websites have enabled us to do business almost anywhere and at any time. But at what cost? There are now many studies that show productivity is reducing due to the complexity of current communication methods.

Let’s take another example – reporting. With the ease of the electronics age we produce fantastic reports, diagrams, plans, estimates, options and data analysis etc. but when we boil down the content, have the answers fundamentally changed? I don’t think so. Has the effort required to produce them increased? Absolutely.

In an effort to cut through the complexity, I’ve been applying a concept I call “Powerfully Simple”.

My approach is that everything we do in business should be as simple as possible but still powerful enough to achieve the desired outcome (Powerfully Simple). To do this we need to focus on the outcome and not get distracted by the storm of data, information and technology which we all exist within. Unnecessary complexity adds time, cost, confusion, training and wasted resources, which ultimately reduce productivity and in many cases compromise shareholder value.

A great example of a powerfully simple approach is Apple. While their products appear simplistic, they work seamlessly and do their job well. There is clearly an enormous amount of complexity behind the scenes but from a user perspective Apple’s products just work in an almost simplistic manner.

So how do you review the complexity in your business?

A Powerfully Simple Organisational Health Check

How well does your business apply a powerfully simple approach? The questionnaire below appears short and simple but it covers a lot of ground if you think hard about what’s behind each question.

  1. Is your organisation’s strategy clearly displayed on a single page?
  2. Can you determine the true performance of your organisation with a one page monthly management report?
  3. Are you retaining good people due to effective senior leadership?
  4. Do you openly encourage diversity of thought?
  5. Does your organisation drive consistent strategic priorities to completion?
  6. Do you review your business systems for ease of use and effectiveness?
  7. Do you test your staff engagement?
  8. Do your managers speak directly with satisfied and unsatisfied clients?
  9. Are your people happy with their development?
  10. Do you test the quantum and quality of your order book monthly?

If you answer yes to the majority of these questions, then you probably have a powerfully simple approach to business.

If not, here are some tips to help you simplify your business processes:

  1. Spend some time clearly defining in a few sentences the desired outcomes of the business and the strategy to achieve these outcomes. Test everything you do against this.
  2. Look at the risks and opportunities of your business and tune your reports and systems to control the risk profile, in proportion to the consequence or opportunity.
  3. The right people are more important than the best systems.
  4. Talk face-to-face with your clients.

Do you have any tips to add on how to simplify business processes?

Shaun Nugent is the director of Phronis Consulting, a specialist consulting firm with significant expertise in the provision of management and advisory services.

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