What does it mean to streamline your business?
Your business is only as efficient as the processes that it puts into action. In many cases, it will be just a handful of processes that make up the majority of your operations. Any effort that you can spend optimising these core processes will be effort well spent.
One potential point of confusion stems from the use of the word ‘streamlining’. This term, borrowed from the world of aerodynamics, refers to the art and practice of getting rid of excess weight. When we streamline, we examine and revise our practices with a view to removing redundancy, and, in increments, devising a process that’s easier to understand, easier to implement, stands less chance of going wrong, and that costs less in the long term.
How can we streamline?
In practice, streamlining efforts tend to fall into several core categories.
Often, technology can help us get the job done faster, cheaper, and to a higher standard. It might be that you have a group of ten people in an office, sitting and entering data. This work might instead be done by a smaller number of skilled people who are able to use and maintain a set of digital tools to get the same work done.
It’s more common to see these sorts of task make up a small part of a person’s workload, rather than the entirety of it. By eliminating this tedious, repetitive work, you’ll allow and incremental productivity gain that doesn’t involve any staff turnover.
For example, a modern HR department might be supplemented by a digital human resource management system. This will leave the people who work in the HR department to deal with things that even modern machines can’t understand or cope with.
It might be that you can achieve the same end by addressing the task itself, rather than the person or thing that’s performing it. An over-complex process might be swapped out for a very simple one that can be performed over and over again, for example. For a basic illustration of this, we might think of the division of labour. A single person with a general skillset might be able to build something complex – but it’s more efficient to have many people with specialised skillsets contributing a small part of the whole.
Of course, there are also downsides to specialisation: you might find that your organisation becomes brittle and myopic if everyone has their head down at their respective tasks. It might also lead to a culture of unquestioning conformity, which can lead to obvious solutions to simple problems being overlooked.
Ideally, your processes should involve a standardised workflow, perhaps accompanied by a checklist. It should offer some flexibility while still allowing for the efficiency gains that come with adhering to a standard.
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