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Feb 14, 2024

Do you know why your employees say they don’t have enough time?

It’s not that there’s too much work to be done.

It’s because your workflows have been created out of urgency and reaction.

Small business resources are precious. That makes designing repeatable systems and workflow management more important to drive sustainable growth.

Systems simplify complexity.

A system’s job is to simplify complexity. The better a system can make hard things easy, the more valuable it is. 

That’s what your customers pay for. 

For example, accountants' systems make taxes simpler. Tax software aims to make it even easier. 

Ultimately businesses thrive when their systems are used effortlessly for your employees to produce value and for your customers to consume it.

Workflows are the building blocks of systems.

Larger systems are made up of smaller systems. Many people call them workflows. These are processes that are done repeatedly to produce a result that is needed for the larger system to function. Workflow diagrams are the visual mapping of these building blocks.

An accountant might send you a tax planner at the start of tax season. This is a key workflow, without it the larger system of filing taxes stops working. 

Your employees spend most of their time executing workflows like this.

Well-designed workflows maintain quality with growth.

Most workflows are organically developed. They work well enough… until they don’t. 

The challenge is growth. 

As quantity increases, the workflows and systems we depend on start to break down. 

It feels like it happens overnight. 

Scaling means continually evolving workflows and making sure the company is structured to support them. That will continue growth without reducing the value you provide.

The System

1. What workflows do you depend on?

You’re likely aware of your critical company workflows. Take some time with different people in the business and brain dump all of the workflows that are critical to producing value to your customers. You want to look for the areas that people skip over or say “that’s just how we do it” to make sure those are included.

2. Where is the pain?

When your list, mind map, sticky-note wall, or tool-of-choice is complete, then give them a pain rating. Which ones are under stress, starting to produce lower quality results, or are causing frustration and complaints?


3. Why? Why? Why?

Take the more painful rated ones and start asking “Why?”. Sometimes the answer is manpower, other times there’s an unnecessary step, or you’ve over engineered a process. Look for dependencies to understand if the cause of pain in one area is actually from another. Avoid coming up with a solution. Solutions end curiosity. When you come up with a reason, ask “Why?” again. Dig as deep as you need to get to the core issue.

4. What might be a solution?

Think through possible solutions, nothing is off limits. Usually there’s an obvious answer. If you stop there, you miss out on better alternatives. Include AI options, even if you don’t know if it exists. Solutions that may have been seen as silly or impossible in the past are now possible. 

5. Should we do it?

Take a look at the solutions and evaluate three factors: impact, cost, and strategic importance. Impact is a measurement of the benefit it would cause. This can be in terms of revenue, employee morale, or any other factor that is strategically important. Cost is money, time, or other limited company resources. Strategic importance is a measure of urgency. However, it’s important to not think of this as a reaction to a current fire drill. It is the urgency of “if we don’t fix this issue now, our ability to deliver on our company strategy and targets is at risk.”

If you want a mathematical way to assist, you can use something like the chart below. Rate each a 9, 5, 3, or 1 and multiply each row together. Then use the score as a starting place for discussion. The higher the score the more value to the business.

Conclusion

The way you set up your workflows really matters. Take a good look at how things are done in your business. 

Find those spots where things get tricky or slow down and ask yourself why. Don't just settle for the first fix that comes to mind. Think it through and consider AI options. 

When you're weighing different solutions, think about what they'll really do for your business, what they'll cost, and how important they are in the big picture.

Get this right, and you're setting your business up for some solid growth!

About the Author

Matt Brumberger, the founder of Centered Performance, helps visionary small business owners evolve their operations so they can focus on growth. With nearly two decades of experience, he combines strategic system development, judicious use of automation, and executive coaching to have companies scale profitably. You can learn more at http://www.centeredperformance.com

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