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Not enough hours in the day?

A funny thing happens when we visit clients to conduct a strategic planning session. Almost every time we hear folks say, “We’re so glad we did this. We’re always so busy with the day-to-day stuff that we never have time to do any serious planning!”

What we do is literally lock them up for two days away from the business so that they can come out of those days with a step by step sequential plan of what needs to be done, plus identify every snag or inefficiency in their present business system. Add to that discovery of the solutions for their biggest bottlenecks, and you have an incredibly productive and well-spent sixteen hours.

What we find is that the more inefficient an organization, the less time anyone has to plan. Conversely, the more efficient the organization, the more planning occurs. Coincidence? We think not! Interesting little circle isn’t it?

If you feel like you’re running on a treadmill, it may be that you are and it’s time to get off! One of the best things a company can do, especially any high-growth company, is stop, step back a minute, take some deep breaths, and ask the simple question, “What’s not working smoothly?”

When we visit a company (and we only go on-site with successful, profitable companies), we identify inefficiencies in a very structured way. We do this by flow charting all of a company’s major business processes. Although this sounds like a huge undertaking, it can usually be done in just two to three hours.

We then ask the employee planning team to identify each and every process that is not working smoothly right now. Interestingly enough, we find that typically employees know all the problem areas. They just don’t get the time to step back and solve them.

After we identify the major snags, it’s amazing how easily some of them can be smoothed out or eliminated. Sometimes it’s through automation, sometimes it’s through training, and sometimes an entire process can be eliminated because it truly isn’t necessary.

Often we find the employees themselves know solutions for the bottlenecks. Why haven’t they done it themselves already? Well, usually it’s because they haven’t had the time or the resources to make the needed changes.

Sometimes, though, employees do not see the snags. That’s where our outside eye, our expertise and knowledge about what other marketers are doing comes in handy. What appears “normal” to the folks in your system may be something we say “Yikes! Why are you still doing it that way!” We know that other marketers have streamlined this process years ago or perhaps your own software vendor has the solution to your problem and you just didn’t know it was available.

So, short of hiring Meridian, here’s what you can do right now, this month to get off the inefficiency treadmill:

1. Gather up a diverse group of employees representing all areas of your company.

2. Challenge them to identify the bottlenecks in your company. If at least one person is familiar with flow charting, use that process. Otherwise, list the problem areas.

3. Look for commonalities in the bottlenecks and similar root causes. Is there a single solution that would eliminate several of the bottlenecks?

4. Prioritize the problems.

5. Pick the biggest, worst one.

6. Put together an action plan including the steps that will be taken, the date each step will be accomplished, the person responsible for each step, and the person with the ultimate responsibility to be sure this bottleneck gets solved.

7. Determine a follow-up method.

Even with companies that put together comprehensive step-by-step plans for a solution, often the ball gets dropped. Why? Everyone’s too busy to work the plan. This is not acceptable! Remember that old saying “insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result?” Your company will not get more profitable if you don’t take the time to work your plan!

It’s better to get one project done and one bottleneck solved than to only get half-way with ten projects. Too many companies have lots of grand ideas but nothing gets fully accomplished. After a while, no one bothers volunteering ideas anymore because they never see results! Commit to getting that one big thing done, no matter how long it takes! Remember, persistence, persistence, persistence!

When you finally achieve that first big goal, celebrate! Especially in a company where previously the ball got dropped a lot, make a big deal that you finally got into the end zone. Then, tackle problem number two with the same zeal and tenacity. Before you know it, you’ll have made significant improvements in your internal systems. More importantly, you’ll see the fruits of your labor at your company’s bottom line.

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