How do I Improve My Company’s Operational Efficiencies?

Take our quiz to find out what kind of Operational Efficiency Improvements are right for your company.

Replace [*] answers with your own specific needs.

1. Which department, area, or process do you want to improve first?

  • a. The [Customer Service*] department.
  • b. Documenting/updating the standardized processes we use to deliver [product/services*].
  • c. Our [New Product Introduction*] Process.
  • d. I don’t know.

2. Why do you want to improve in this way?

  • a. We have a high volume of [Customer Complaints / defects*].
  • b. We have [never/not recently*] documented our current state processes.
  • c. This process is [too time consuming/too confusing/too expensive*] and we need to accomplish [more/the same volume*] with [the same/fewer/a non-linear growth curve] number of people and/or resources.
  • d. I don’t know.

3. What is your desired state after this improvement is done?

  • a. We will not have the high volume of [Customer Complaints / defects*] any more.
  • b. We will be able to backfill people on vacation, train new team members more quickly, cross-train existing team members for development opportunities, and/or start to make consistent improvements that can be piloted against our current state for more future improvements.
  • c. We will be able to keep up with demand with reasonable Operational Expense increases.
  • d. I don’t know

4. How will you measure success?

  • a. We [already have/will implement] a metric to track this which will demonstrate the improvement.
  • b. Our Leadership Team and employee base will be confident in our ability to run the business no matter who is gone, and we will track and try out new continuous improvement ideas.
  • c. We [already track/will track*] profit margins, and will see these stabilize and grow.
  • d. I don’t know.

ANSWER GUIDE:

Mostly “A” answers:

Institute the metric on the volume of issues (if not already implemented) and perform a Root Cause Assessment of why this issue is happening within that department (5 Whys, Fishbone/Ishikawa diagrams, Direct Observation, conversations with customers and/or employees, etc.). Determine which issues are the most prevalent (Pareto analysis) and design a process which would eliminate the root cause of the greatest volume of root cause issues; likely the 80-20 rule will apply whereby addressing 20% of the root cause(s) will resolve 80% of the issues. Implement this new process (don’t forget to document it!), train everyone, and watch the metric improve over time. If it does *not* improve, perform another Root Cause Assessment to find out why – and repeat.

Mostly “B” answers:

Get or create a standardized template “Procedure” document and task one or two people in each area to document the current state processes. You may consider outsourcing this to a facilitator external to the company, or from a different department for objectivity, accountability, and possibly to help highlight “low hanging fruit” improvement opportunities (which would be icing on the cake!). Ensure these procedures are reviewed by high performing team members and/or managers and incorporate their feedback until they are approved. Train everyone in the department to these procedures and store them in a location where everyone has access to review them in future. To ensure they work, try training at least one new person (even if this is a cross-trainee from another department), and incorporate any improvements that arise during training as well! Then schedule a vacation!

Mostly “C” answers:

Perform a Process Mapping exercise with representative stakeholders from all aspects of the process. To maintain objectivity, ideally have this facilitated, by an external facilitator or someone internally who is not affiliated with the process. First map the Current State, then map the Ideal Future State. List all the items that need to be true in order for the Ideal Future State to work. Prioritize those items on an “Impact-Ease” basis (i.e., what items have the most impact on the Ideal Future State and which are the easiest?). Sort by Impact, then by Ease – and assign owners to the High Impact High and/or Medium Ease items right away, possibly the Medium Impact High Ease as well. Also develop a team to begin planning for the High Impact Low Ease items, to see when/how these can feasibly be introduced to your process. Monitor profit margins over time, ensuring that they are improving as you introduce the High Impact changes.

Mostly “D” answers: Hire an resource to conduct a Needs Assessment to identify the opportunities for Operational Efficiency gains in your company. You can try to do this internally, but it may be very challenging. AJC recommends hiring an external consultant experienced in Needs Assessments.