Feb 16, 2012

Breaking Systems to Force Positive Change

Implementing a new system is frustrating. No matter how well the tools are implemented, the transition is unavoidably painful. It hurts, because you’re forced to change.

The pain of changing systems hit home for me yesterday, because we just moved our email and calendar to Google Apps for Business. The implementation went off without a hitch, but my personal productivity was significantly derailed.

Activities I usually did without thinking were taking onerous amounts of cognitive horsepower. And it wasn’t the tools that were holding me back. Gmail and Google Calendar are surprisingly easy to use. Rather it was the communication workflow between our CRM, accounting and project management systems that were being brought into question.

Throughout the day I kept asking, “Why do we do that?” By learning to integrate a new application into our business I was forced to analyze and question the way we do things. And I can already see there are opportunities to improve our business processes.

50% of what a business does is waste

I know my company does things that are unproductive. We’ve been around since 1989, and systems build up over time. And for us, a lot of our foundational systems were created before the days of email, on demand applications and social media.

According to Ron Wince of Guidon, “Half of a company’s processes are waste.” These are systems that don’t drive revenue, improve productivity or bring value to customers. These are just things companies do, because they’ve always done them that way.

When I heard that stat I was immediately reminded of the movie Office Space, and Lumbergh pestering Peter for his TPS Reports,

Hello, Peter. What’s happening? Uh, we have sort of a problem here. Yeah. You apparently didn’t put one of the new cover sheets on your TPS reports … Yeah. If you could just go ahead and make sure you do that from now on, that will be great. And Uh, I’ll go ahead and make sure you get another copy of that memo. Mmmm, Ok?

The scene resonates, because we’ve all been there. We’ve done processes that aren’t driving value, but for some reason the business can’t run without them.

Break the systems to grow

You can’t achieve your full potential if you’re carrying the weight of legacy systems. They’re holding you back.

To break free of our old processes we tackle a major business initiative every year. We don’t want to get too comfortable or complacent, and implementing a new system or piece of software is often just what the doctor calls for. The idea has two benefits. First, we’re investing in our business and ourselves by upgrading our systems annually. And second, we’re challenging the status quo. Implementing structural changes force us to re-evaluate and tweak our processes, and that helps us stay nimble and efficient.

How do you break the status quo to move your business ahead?

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