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What’s Keeping Your Company from Scaling?

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Is there something going on in your company that is slowing down growth, making it not fun to come into work, or creating tension within your team? In my experience, when things don’t go as planned, what usually happens is everyone starts pointing fingers at other people. When everything feels more difficult than it should be, it’s easy to place the blame on someone else. I have found that in almost every instance, there is a root cause and it’s not your people. It’s your processes. And not just any processes, it’s what I call your Core  Processes.

What really trips up most companies are the big cross-functional processes that are truly core to the business. In order to get certain things done, some projects or tasks require that they are routed through several departments. This is the major source of the repetitive heart burn.

Whenever a process jumps across departments, there is usually a missed hand-off and the gears quickly become out of sync.

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Work with your leadership team to create a list of about four to five Core Processes that define the company. These should only include the cross-functional processes.

  • Assign someone to be accountable (preferably a volunteer) for each process. This gives the process a voice and a hand that can be raised during a meeting to address when things that are not working right, or the ability to coordinate a meeting when things need to be streamlined.
  • Define the key metrics for each process. How are they measured? How do we continuously lean them out and improve them? How do we do them better, faster, and cheaper?
  • Pick one process to work on first. Which process will provide the most benefit the fastest? These are big processes, so don’t try to fix an entire process at once. Select a section and start there. You’ll be surprised by how much easier it is to fix the full process by looking at one section at a time. Additionally, by working on one section at a time, you won’t stress out your team.
  • Start documenting, with as much detail as you can reasonably handle. Don’t go overboard, there should be just enough to see the process and speed up training. I like to say a documented process is the foundation for continuous improvement.

As you scale, your processes will break. It’s imperative that you build Core Process work into your quarterly planning cadence. Pick one process per quarter and get to work. This allows you to revisit each Core Process annually before big problems arise. In business, it’s much easier to prevent heartburn than to treat it as there is no pill to take to eliminate the pain.

One of the biggest benefits of process work is that a majority of the people-problems seem to disappear. Bad or dated processes drive people crazy and the good people in your company will leave over time if the processes aren’t corrected.

If your company seems out of sync and tensions are high, go to the root cause and see if your current process, or lack of processes, is causing the problem.

(Image: Ju Zheng Bam / flickr)