Processes, Growth and Scalability.

I’ve had a number of discussions this past few weeks regarding GROWTH and SCALABILITY.

One recurring theme is regarding processes, and when I mention that processes should be standardised, I get the normal “we’re growing and that one size standardisation doesn’t fit and this is a back-office environment

Process Standardisation

Let me explain, every business is individual and has its unique way of doing things, but that unique way can still be standardised. Having a room full of 20 Service Call Associates operating in their own way results in 20 different outputs and potential chaos.

If you were to standardise the process (optimised, least way way of doing things) written procedures, your 20 Associates now operate in the same way and give a repeatable, stable output.

This standard way, considers;

  • Tasks and activities
  • Decision points
  • Cycle times
  • Work in process
  • Flow time
  • Sequence
  • Loops
  • Travel / distance

Standardisation and Growth

A business has 555 calls coming into its service centre, it’s normal work hours/week are 37 hours (excluding breaks, etc).

Our TAKT Time

37 x 60 = 2220 mins/week

2220 / 555 = 4 mins TAKT

Let’s say our Standardised Process has a manual cycle time equalling 24mins

Therefore, our number of employees to match demand and capacity is

Total Manual Cycle Time/TAKT which is 24 / 4 = 6 Associates


our calls increase to 740/week so our TAKT = 3 mins

As our process is standardised this SCALABILITY is relatively easy to accommodate

24 / 3 = 8 Associates required


PS: these standard processes are TRANSFERABLE, think McDonalds.

Many thanks for viewing my post and would you please share it with anyone you feel would benefit from the advice provided. 

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The Process is the Problem and the Solution

Reality is invariably different from perception; few processes work the way we think they do. You will probably use a dozen business processes each day. For example:

  • Writing a report
  • Manufacturing a product
  • Managing a new client

You’ve likely come across the results of an inefficient process too,

  • Unhappy customers
  • Missed deadlines
  • Invoicing mistakes
  • Poor quality

That’s why it is so important to improve processes when they are not working well.

Now in the age of Technology Innovations we tend to throw IT systems in the work stream to improve the process, despite that often correct assumption, caution needs to be taken when implementing IT solutions. A common saying “shit in shit out” always springs to mind.

Our focus should always be to systemise processes, but remember the process is the solution and also the problem.

Process Analysis

Put it this way, in understanding a process recently, over 40% of production management time was chasing parts, that ripple effect is massive, (throwing a stone on one side of an ocean can cause a tidal wave on the other). Now in understanding the process we found that certain bits of information were being omitted. The business process is flawed. If we design the IT system without first understanding and optimising the process, the IT system we implement will be flawed as well.

It might make things easier, but long term, you’re never going to get the best results, because the underlying process isn’t up to scratch.

Based on our experience/research you can expect a 25%+ improvement within a process by focusing on optimisation.

So, fix your processes, then systemise them, because doing it the other way around will almost always cause headaches.

Process Improvement and Optimisation

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It’s getting to that time of year again for some of us, when we start to look at our half year performance or even looking to the operational budgets for the year to come.

The economic outlook is being driven by uncertainty (some of it in my opinion is the media plus others talking us into it, you’ve only got to look at the articles in the News to see it’s not all doom and gloom), we have to think positively in order to be successful.

I read an article recently from The Magic of Thinking Big, by David J. Schwartz. (here’s an extract)

Belief and wishful thinking are quite different. Wishful thinking will never spur you to action and as a result, your wishful thought will forever remain a wish. However, when you truly believe you can do it, the how to do it will reveal itself.

Strong belief in something allows your mind to figure out ways to accomplish what you believe. Belief is the driving force behind all great successes. For example, Edison wouldn’t have continued to try and try unless he really believed he could make the electric light bulb. Schwartz discovered that belief in success is the one universal, basic and essential characteristic behind all successful people.

The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief.

The distinguishing difference between a person who is going places and the individual who is struggling is the latter person’s habit of excuses. And one of the biggest hindrances to success is fear, and what do we always see in the papers, news, etc., FEAR!

Thinking dictates action! (David J. Schwartz)

I have witnessed colleagues thinking they are inferior to another and ultimately act like that as well. As David has pointed out, thinking dictates action.

Successful people think big and think creatively.

Creative thinking is nothing more than finding new and improved ways in what you need to achieve. Success is dependent upon using creative thinking to discover these improved ways; and as with most things, it can be learnt.

So whilst looking at your half year performance, your Operational Budgets, and or your Strategy for the coming months, think positively, think big, think what it is you need to achieve and find new ways to do things, learn from others. But definitely don’t FEAR it.

Worth a read: The Magic of Thinking Big, by David J. Schwartz.

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Sales: Just who is undermining performance?

Sales – the good guys or good for nothing? I guess it depends on your perspective, I have certainly heard both views, and whilst in Sales been the target of those and worse comments too. Personally during my tenure in the function and since, whilst I have come across the odd “rogue trader” more interested in his/her expense account than the success of his/her company, almost without exception I have found sales people to be dedicated, motivated individuals, driven almost without exception to succeed. What I have also found time and time again is sales organisations and processes that were well and truly broken with the Sales people taking the blame for a systematic failure in a company’s processes.

A few months ago Adam and I completed an assignment for a UK company, where the problem definition was something along the lines of “The ONLY problem is that the sales team are hopeless, they never go and see their customers” and on first inspection we found that indeed if the Sales team were out more than 1 day per week, then that was the exception.

However, having completed a process map, taking a typical opportunity through enquiry to order and delivery it soon became clear why this perception held – in fact the Sales team it appeared had taken it on themselves to manage the whole process, not only estimating the jobs, but project managing them through engineering, progress chasing through manufacture, even buying and organising site installation. What was worse was that everyone else including the management had let them and had abdicated all responsibility themselves, more than happy to point the finger at the Sales team when things went wrong. It was an absolute miracle that Sales ever went to see a customer at all, let alone grow the business. To be fair having had the scenario explained to them the senior management took on board our findings and re-engineered the organisation from top to bottom, allowing the sales team to let go of the internal processes, confident that they would be supported whilst out facing the customer.

When considering your organisation, remember – Sales people are employed to sell, and that it does not matter how good your operation is or how clever your design, without orders your business will die. Orders are the output of a process. A process that transforms prospects into orders.

If the process is optimised, it will be efficient, effective and create value for your customers and your business. If not, it will destroy value.

Richard Shaw – Business Practitioner

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