Business Optimisation Guidelines



Hopefully the title while trying to stay positive and polite, says it all. During tough times all businesses must take measures and adjust accordingly. Unfortunately, too many times we act out of fear, desperation or because we’re under pressure.

Few people know that there are actually some frameworks and methods – proven by many years of experience – that can provide a clear guideline about what needs to be done. This is the area of Lean/Agile. And when we talk about experience and proven track record, we refer to some 70 years of Lean and 30 years of Agile experience.

Here are a few concepts and practices which should come in handy during these turbulent times.

Value

Every economic shift (call it crisis, if you want!) comes with some reprioritisation of what is valuable. Under normal or booming conditions some things are valuable and people are willing to pay money for them. This might not be the case today. So, before deciding that you want to work from home or move to online, make sure your product is still relevant. Do customers still want the benefits you’re providing? Are they still ready to pay a price to get those benefits? Here’s an example: almost all training companies and making their courses available online. But if their customers are shutting down parts of the business, probably training their employees is not their number one priority.

Flow

Review all the activities that are part of your delivery flow from the customer demand to delivery. Some of these activities are adding value some or not. Those that do not add value should be eliminated, reduced or optimised. In other words, maybe spending a few hours a day into a meeting is not the best way to spend your time. And this is called flow for a reason. The delivery processes (you may call this value creation) should flow one after the other with no blockages or bottlenecks. And yes, waiting a few days for a decision is a blockage, in case you were looking for examples. Most studies show that under normal market conditions, most people spend about 20% of their time on value-adding activities. These are not normal conditions. This percentage should get much higher.

Focus

From the one million things you are doing on a regular basis, pick one. Focus on that and do it very well. While this is a good advice all the time, now it is even more crucial. You don’t have the luxury to learn new stuff, try until it works or be mediocre.

Problem solving

Everybody talked at length about problem solving being the skill that we all need to survive in the future. This is our chance to try it for real. Not in a meeting room, with no safety net and when people are dying. Leave emotions out, try to understand the real problem in an abstract way and figure out solutions.

For more on how to use this refer to any resources available where they talk about process improvement, kaizen, lean or retrospectives. While there is no silver bullet, for sure some of these techniques can help.
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