To ask the question, “Do you have any broken or ineffective systems?” seems like a foolish question to ask because the answer will always be, “Of course” (or to the more blunt among us, “Duh!”).
However, to make this post more meaningful for you, the question needs to be asked and answered. So, let’s make the question more specific.
“What is one of the most pressing processes you need to fix in your business right now?”
For example, it could be one of your major processes
- Your lead generation process
- Your lead conversion process
- Your fulfillment process
- Your hiring process
- Your on boarding process
- Your customer service process
- Your innovation process
- Your meetings process
- Your communications process
Or it could be something more finite like
- Your follow-up sequence for new leads
- Your follow-up sequence for new customers
- Your meeting agenda process
- Your interviewing process
- Your CRM training process
- Your tracking process for your marketing efforts
- Your internal calendar conflict resolution process
- Your promotional process for X holiday
So, what is one of your most pressing process problems that you know needs to be fixed ASAP?
Now that you have that in mind, here are five questions you can use to right your ship.
I. What Is Our Current Process?
Now, before you pass by this question too quickly, it’s critical that you answer it. My experience has been that while most business owners and entrepreneurs know they ought to systematize their business and processes, most don’t. Typically their answer is something rambling like, “Well, you know … we usually tend to …. and then sometimes we …. but, to be honest, we really don’t have any system that we follow consistently.”
In other words, the typical process is a “seat-of-the-pants” system based on whatever the person responsible for the process or activity decided to do (i.e. not a great process).
However, before you can fix anything, you need to see what it currently looks like. So, what does your current process look like?
For example, if you were to write down your current interview process, what would it look like?
If you’re like most business owners, it probably looks something like,
- I look over someone’s resume a few minutes before I meet them
- I ask them some questions
- Whoever I think or feel is the best fit, I hire.
That’s not a great system but at least it is an honest one.
Remember, you’re not turning this in for a grade. So just be honest. What is your current process?
II. What Have We Tried In The Past That’s Worked?
This might seem like an unusual question to ask, but it’s not. Frequently, businesses, in pursuit of change, change things that are working and the new systems aren’t as effective as the old ones.
So, with your process, was there something you used to do that got better results than what you’re currently doing?
For example, playing with our hiring process issue, maybe in the early days of your company, you had someone else sit in on your interviews with you (i.e. you did tandem interviews vs. solo-interviews). Over time, as your business grew and everyone got busier, it just seemed more “efficient” to have only one person sit in on an interview than two.
Or maybe when you were smaller and you felt like a small team, you wanted several people on your team to meet with a prospective employee and you wanted to get their read on this prospective employee vs. just trusting your gut.
Either one of those two systems tweaks would be better than just you. In other words, don’t rule out ideas from your past.
So, is there something that you did in the past that might be worth revisiting to fix your current process problem?
Remember, sometimes the way forward is to go back.
III. What Have We Tried That Hasn’t?
This is the truth question. This is where you and your team get honest and say, “This part isn’t working.” Or, “Here are a list of things we’ve tried that we shouldn’t revisit.”
In the case for our interviewing process you might say something like
- Me just asking random questions based on a quick reading of a resume
- Using a standardized personality test before talking to a candidate
- Meeting in a restaurant for an interview
- Having them fill out a long application form with lots of wide open questions
As a consultant, this is one of my favorite questions—for three reasons. One, I never want to suggest an idea that someone has already tried and it didn’t work (i.e. no one wants to appear stupid). Two, it immediately eliminates a lot of wasted time as people suggest ideas that they know won’t work (but they do because they’re familiar ideas and they don’t want to appear stupid). And three, sometimes, the list can help you discover a problem (either with their thinking or their solution).
So, what you tried that hasn’t worked to fix your broken or ineffective process?
IV. What Ideas Have We Observed Or Learned From Others?
I love this question as well. Why? Because there is NO PROBLEM that you’re encountering that someone else hasn’t encountered before (or at least something similar).
You’ve talked with other business owners and entrepreneurs. You’ve attended conferences. You’ve listened in on webinars and podcasts. You’ve taken courses. You’ve read books. You have access to the internet. You’ve observed other companies and their processes, etc. You (or you and your team) have a lot of experiences and thoughts around whatever issue you’re trying to solve. So, this is the time to unpack them. Your problem is not unique.
In the case of our interviewing process, there are tons of books on interviewing (I’m a big fan of Brad Smart and Topgrading). There’s a ton of material on the web about how to conduct better interviews and what questions to ask or not ask. You have an extensive network of other business owners and entrepreneurs whom you could ask about their experiences (both positive and negative) about interviewing potential employees. Note: We all have some dumb tax to share on this issue. No one hires superstars 100% of the time.
So, what ideas have you observed or learned from others that you think might be able to help you fix your current process problem?
V. Based On The Above, How Should We Redesign Our Process Today?
Trying to design or redesign a “perfect process” is a waste of time. You simply want to get a good enough process in place and then optimize it over time. In other words, don’t overthink this to death.
You know where you’re starting (and I’m pre-supposing you know what results you want since you consider this process broken or ineffective). You know what you’ve tried that’s worked and what hasn’t. And you know what you’ve both observed and learned from others.
All of this should give you more than enough to redesign a better system than the one you currently have. Remember, perfection is elusive. All you need to do is put in place a better process than the one you currently have and then, over time, keep optimizing it for better results.
In our interview process, your new system might have some of the following pieces built into it
- A standardized short application form (vs. a long detailed one)
- A standardized test to be completed before the interview (for ex. a small coding project for a programmer or a marketing piece to edit for a marketer) vs. a standardized personality test
- A standardized pre-interview process (vs. a quick three to five-minute scan over a resume)
- A standardized set of interview questions you ask of each candidate (vs. a random “off-the-top-of-the-head” list of questions that aren’t asked equally of each candidate)
- Tandem interviews with multiple rounds (vs. one person interviewing and not getting the input of more than two people)
You get the idea. Once you answer the first four questions, you’ll undoubtedly come up with a better process than the one you have today—and that’s all you need for now.
So, if you want to fix any broken or ineffective process in your business, just ask these five questions
- What’s our current process?
- What have we tried that’s worked?
- What have we tried that hasn’t?
- What have we observed or learned from others?
- Based on the above, how would we redesign our process today?
You’ll be amazed at the results you get if you continually ask these five questions all the time about every process in your business.
To your accelerated success!