Tag: process

What’s Keeping Your Company from Scaling?

3657801283_d407c24a60_z

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.

The Solution:
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)

The Power of Setbacks

16107849659_b4ecd144c6_z

At 40 years old, I was in the best shape of my life. I had just turned Pro as a mountain bike racer and I had a clear vision of racing Pro Nationals and lining up next to the Stars and Stripes jersey. On May of that year my vision, my Epic Win, was crushed when I hit an oak tree leading out a race and fractured 4 vertebrae in my low back. What happened next forever changed not only how I race, but also how I coach and run hyper-growth businesses.

I lost months during the recovery process and knew my strength and fitness would take a long time to rebuild. I could no longer win a race being the strongest racer. I had to use strategy to win. I had to find a way to leverage my setback in a way that would help all my future races. I had to Think to Win.

If you are running a company, you have competition. There are winners and losers every day. In our efforts to win, there is a seemingly endless flow of issues, setbacks, and constraints (and oak trees!) that are conspiring against us.

As leaders who want to win, what can we do?

  1. Create a culture and process where issues and setbacks are constantly brought to the surface without personal retribution. Make it safe to share a problem. Create a weekly agenda item inside an existing meeting to uncover these.
  2. Use a process to learn from the issues. Problems can be gifts if your team learns from them and can prevent them in the future or solve them faster next time.
  3. Ask these questions:
    • What was our original intention, or original plan?
    • What things really worked?
    • What things did not work?
    • Knowing what we know now, what would we do differently?
    • What are the lessons learned?
    • What step by step process could we create to eliminate or minimize this in the future?

Get into the habit of solving problems and getting your team into solution-mode by creating processes to make the business stronger.

In my oak tree example, my lesson learned was that sitting down during a race to conserve energy in a technical section of the track is a bad idea. My corrective action was to stand more during training and to make it a habit. In using strategy to win vs brute force, I learned how to slow down races by getting into the woods first and controlling the pace. I practiced my starts and tuned my training in order to win the sprints leading into the single track trail in the woods.

Don’t get frustrated with setbacks. Learn from them and create a culture within your teams to get stronger faster.

(Image: Phil Beckman / flickr)

Eliminate Waste And Errors With Defined Processes

Does it feel like as you add employees things just get harder and not easier? Is your team spending too much time fixing avoidable problems causing frustration or doing unnecessary and expensive rework impacting the bottom line? In my experience, the No. 1 root cause of errors and rework is lack of defined processes.
architecture-768432_1920

Have you ever played the Telephone Game? One person whispers a phrase into another person’s ear, then it’s passed from person to person. What you will see time and time again is that the phrase is never what the original person said – it’s been interpreted over and over to the point that it’s been misunderstood, and by the end of the line it’s a totally different phrase with a completely different meaning.

That’s what happens when processes aren’t written down. The information is just passed via word of mouth, and invariably the receiver mixes up something. Additional complexity comes in when there are multiple people supporting the particular process and/or there are multiple shifts that are trying to maintain consistency of the process over a 24-hour period.

There is a simple solution to help ensure everyone is on the same page and completing the same tasks to get to the end result.

  1. Find the Why
  2. Write it down
  3. Talk it over
  4. Test it
  5. Maintain it

1. Find the Why: the value proposition

It’s human nature to ask, “what’s in it for me?” Help your team understand what’s in it for them within the process – why are they performing the steps, and why is it so important to be able to repeat and reproduce the steps by person, by role and over a period of time. This could be done by aligning the process back to the company goals, core values or internal/external risks associated with not completing the process consistently. Find what works with your team and define the value proposition.

2. Write it down

There are varying levels of process documentation. This can range from bulleted steps, to process maps, to a detailed workflow that includes standard operating procedures, time value maps or spaghetti maps that show the product movements around the production floor throughout the day. The first step is to pick what works best as a learning/training tool for your team, and just write it down.

3. Talk it over

Work across the team that completes the process to make sure that the steps that you wrote down will accurately describe what really happens. This is where you start to learn where people do things differently and where inconsistency in process can cause errors, rework and employee frustration. Come to a consensus regarding how the process should work, then write it down. Then it’s time to test it.

4. Test it

Have each team member responsible for the process complete the steps, exactly as written by the team, over a period of 1-2 weeks. Debrief on what’s working, what’s not, where there are still gaps and what could be done better to get the best out of the process. As the team agrees on changes, update the process and test out the changes.

5. Maintain it

Once you have a process documented and working as originally designed, ensure you put measures in place to maintain the integrity of the process. These would be considered the quality checks. Along with quality checks, make sure there is a method to train new employees on the process once they come on board.

This simple five-step process will help ensure that your processes are clear, well-understood and easily followed by your team, and should eliminate costly and frustrating errors and wasteful rework.

If you think you may have more people-related issues in your company than you should have, start by cleaning and defining process first. You’ll be amazed at how many “people” issues go away once processes are clear.

Image credit: Geralt / Pixabay

Scaling Up with Rock Solid Annual Planning Methodologies

Scaling Up with Rock Solid Annual Planning Methodologies

By Robert Fish

business-1137366_1280Does your company have a proven and repeatable Annual Planning process that is used and referenced throughout the year? Does the full company BELIEVE in the plan and know how they individually contribute to make it a reality? Does your Annual Plan create simple but powerful strategies and direction? Even if you said ‘yes’ to the above, does your leadership team run out of steam half way through the year?

As a serial Entrepreneur, Gazelles Certified Coach and Professional level mountain bike racer, I have learned one very powerful thing. Often, the best way to have a strong finish is to start at the beginning. If I want to have a strong finish at mountain bike Pro Nationals, my ‘start at the beginning’ means lots of long easy and slow miles on the bike in the off season. This is my base. I can only layer in intensity to my training in direct relation to the size of my base I create… think the base of a pyramid.

My fitness pyramid will only be as high (peak performance) as my ‘base’ is wide. From a business perspective in relation to Annual Planning, the base of the pyramid is review, and re-commitment to Core Ideologies such as Core Values, Core Purpose and the BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).

Want your company to reach peak performance, engage your people, execute without drama, and turn revenue into real profit and cash? Start at the beginning!!! A common mistake during Annual Planning is trying to start in the middle with goals and priorities. A good plan on paper may be possible, but the team will not reach peak performance during the year.

Focusing on Core Ideologies at the beginning of Annual Planning gives your team CLARITY on why they are doing what they are doing and MEANING on why it’s important. Developing a simple set of rules and guidelines that people believe in creates the engine or batteries that will help carry the plan through the year. Developing a plan around revenue and profit alone just does not work in most cases. There is not enough emotional connection to carry through the rough patches. The team needs to physically connect with the Goals and Priorities for the year, and why it’s important to make them happen.

Think about the power of creating a Core Ideology driven Operating System for your team during Annual and Quarterly Planning. There are two major outcomes by creating this:

1) Strategy development (things that drive revenue) becomes simpler because it’s easier to decide WHAT NOT TO DO. Does the proposed strategy idea accelerate our BHAG or does it pull us away? Any strategy that violates any of the Core Ideologies is not a good and SUSTAINABLE strategy. They fail.

2) Scale Up faster by better alignment of resources. By aligning strategy with Core Ideologies, and eliminating projects that conflict, your team will not be fighting over resources during the year. One common mistake many companies make (and they never know this is the reason) is the annual priority stack which pulls resources in opposite directions. The CEO thinks the team is in alignment because of the agreement on the annual plan. But the plan itself (not the people) pulls the company apart and makes execution and profit very difficult. It’s important during annual planning that the priorities build on each other and do not compete for resources. There are other methods to aligning resources but always start with Core Ideologies first.

The fastest way to Scale Up your business and reach Peak Performance is to slow down at the beginning of Annual Planning and get the Core Ideologies dialed-in and re-engaged 100%. Everything through the execution phase of the plan will be easier and faster as a result.

When is the best time to start Annual Planning? Now!!! Especially if any of the Core Ideologies are in question, are missing, or your leadership team is not 100% on board with them. You’ll also give your team a running start into the new year and you’ll have a chance to address potential issues that might prevent success in advance.