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Five tips for working smarter as a company

Back in 2007, Michael Hammer, the father of the process-centred organisation, wrote in the Harvard Business Review that, ‘Few executives question the idea that by redesigning business processes – work that runs from end to end across an enterprise – they can achieve extraordinary improvements in cost, quality, speed, profitability and other key areas. Yet in spite of their intentions and investments, many executives flounder, unsure about what exactly needs to be changed, by how much and when.’

Alice Jakins and Belinda (Bill) Murray who run a People & Process program, work collaboratively with businesses, helping them to run better, with improved processes, practices and platform wins. They love to make processes fun, simple and people focused and help businesses and teams around the world work smarter.

‘We’ve found that for all our clients – big or small – the same challenge applies: finding the time to optimise the efficiencies within the company. And that’s where we come in,’ says Alice. ‘We fast-track the understanding of the true challenges and then share recommendations on how to future-proof their internal processes and accountability within teams.’

What lessons come up again and again?

This is the advice that Alice and Bill find themselves giving most frequently once they’ve done an audit of clients’ systems and processes:

1. Ensure everyone knows how the company’s goals and values translate in terms of their ways of working.

‘We were working with the marketing team of a global pharmaceutical company. One of their values was “collaboration” yet the team was not collaborating. Someone would brief in a brochure, and it would sometimes take four weeks for it to be supplied. When you have the right people collaborating from the start, and there is a basic practice to support this, the workflow runs much smoother.’

2. Regularly check in on your organisational structure, job specs and goal tracking

‘One of our clients was a boutique digital agency that had scaled pretty quickly from 5 to 20 people. All the worker bees were reporting to both managers, which was confusing for staff and meant the managers were duplicating efforts in certain areas. We helped them get clear on not only their own strengths in the business but also everyone else’s. We worked together to co-create a responsibility chart that highlighted four key responsibilities for each individual in the business as well as team accountability in the format of skillset pods. All of this tied into the company’s quarterly goal bringing greater purpose to the work.’

3. Choose (and use) the right internal metrics

‘An online retailer’s creative team were feeling completely stretched in terms of volume of work. We shared some online platforms that could help them work smarter in the delivery of their creative work, but the real problem was that they weren’t quantifying the kind of creative work being requested. Once they had the data to show it was mostly emailers, for example, or partner web pages or banner sets, they could implement smarter ways of working with the right mix of required skillset & platform bits in order to get through the work optimally.’

4. Ditch complex ways of working for simplicity

‘We discovered that every member of another marketing team we worked with was using a different briefing format. A lot of the briefs were extremely long with the crux of what was needed from the creative team sitting at the very end. We worked with both marketing and creative teams to surface their challenges with the briefs and then together co-created a consistent briefing template.’

5. Invest in training and upskilling

‘While doing a company audit, we discovered that many employees were super keen to upskill but weren’t aware of what was available to them, or how to find the time to complete courses. We worked with the partners on a list of skills that would grow the business. Making training part of a growth plan ensures it is considered, strategic and sets one up for success.

How Alice and Bill bring process problems to the surface

‘Our model is based on a hive of activity that has three key interlocking areas; inside each of these are the parts that speak to working smart,’ says Alice.

The key areas in the People & Process model are:

  1. Purpose, principles and proprietary
  2. Processes, practices and platforms
  3. People, pods and profession

When doing a People & Process audit for a business, Alice and Bill use their hive model as a guide to build a Miro board. Miro is a virtual collaboration platform or “online whiteboard” that enables people to engage in a visual way and is changing the way we work for the better. It is possible to build your own boards or adapt one of the amazing available templates as a starting point.

This Miro board holds all insights from the audit. These include results from an initial survey plus all the info gathered from personal one-to-ones as well as documents, visuals and screenshots shared pertaining to platforms and processes in the business.

‘The documentation part of the audit is huge and the amount of info we collate is enormous. Having all the material in one visual space makes it easier to digest and saves hours of time,’ says Bill. All that data is then broken down into common challenges, and Alice and Bill strategise on the best way to fix or improve the business’s internal ways of working.

‘It’s a fun process but it also ensures buy-in and ownership,’ says Alice. ‘Injecting fun doesn’t mean you’re not working hard, but accountability and ownership are the key to success. The trick when fixing broken or convoluted processes is to start with the people.’

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