I am convinced that small business owners are superheroes.
It’s true! They often make the impossible happen. With or without the best tools.
I have spent 20 years in the process improvement space as a consultant. I have served large and small, government and non-government as well as defense and civilian organizations. They all have an invested interest to increase their organizational efficiency. The traditional approach has firms spending a significant amount of money on complex software and/or expensive subject matter experts (*ahem*… like me). It often takes several iterations even in the first pass of improvement and the return on investment (ROI) is not always intuitive.
These are not showstoppers for larger and more resourced firms that can hire consultants and try out expensive packages over the course of several years. However, for small businesses, the clarity in improvement and the swiftness of discovery are imperative for the company to make real-time decisions and pivots.
Many dedicated business process management and process improvement consultants are on a mission to make the path to organizational efficiency a more traversable one. There is work being done in the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) space which is very promising. According to Wikipedia, RPA systems develop an action list by watching the user perform that task in the application's GUI and then perform the automation by repeating those tasks directly in the GUI. This could alleviate the need for repetitive actions and could evolve into a much more comprehensive work saver.
While we wait for this emerging technology and other exciting artificial intelligence concepts to show up consistently in the toolset of the small business, those entrepreneurs won't just wait around. Much of the improvement work they do is trial and error or brute force - think of all the creative yet minimally productive ways to use MS Excel. I am personally committed to the dawn of such accessible and democratic innovations. For that reason, I’d like to share a couple of simple process improvement tools that may foster active process thinking and efficiency improvements for small businesses:
This is an easy to read and printable worksheet that teams can use to learn more about actions to take when planning for overall improvement. It is meant to provide ideas for business owners and their teams to take steps toward a more consistently improving set of processes — efficiency on purpose!
This is a simple questionnaire small businesses can use to determine quantitatively how efficient a current process is. One can simply answer a few questions about one of the processes in the business and get, in return, an efficiency score.
These free process improvement tools are a great start for any business looking to transition from reactionary, one-off tasks to proactive planning and efficient processes.
Authored by Guest Contributor Christine Curtis
Further Reading: THE PERIGON METHOD