Not long ago, I got into a debate with a co-worker about my desire to update a few of our processes.
“Why reinvent the wheel?? Everything is working just fine.”
“I don’t want to reinvent the wheel … I want to make sure the wheel is properly inflated. I want to clean it and shine it up with some Armor oil. I want to take the wheel we have and make better so that it’ll last longer and look good while it’s rolling.”
The wheels on a car need to be checked for wear and tear and dust; they need to be rotated — or possibly even replaced … The same is true of the processes in our organizations. As our organizations grow and change, we sometimes fail to assess the processes we have in place for handling work to ensure they are still the most efficient way to do things. We just keep rolling along, assuming that just because the wheels haven’t fallen off, everything is fine. We assume there are no problems because the work is getting done and all the deadlines are being met. However, this kind of thinking leads to days, months, years and decades of time and money wasted on inefficient processes.
Just because a process is working, doesn’t mean it is the most efficient process. It is worth taking a few days once a year or so to look at your processes to be sure they are as efficient as possible.
Here are a few questions to consider …
- What’s changed since we put this in place? If there have been several and/or significant changes in staffing, structure, size or technology since the last time you examined the process, it’s probably inefficient.
- Is this preventing us from something else we want/need to do? If the process is holding you back from doing equally important things or advancing other goals, it’s probably inefficient.
- Are there lots of shortcuts? If people are figuring out work-arounds for the process, it’s probably inefficient.
- What’s the reaction? If people have a strong, negative reaction to the mention of the process, it is probably inefficient. If mentioning your handling of the process to people outside of the organization results in awkward silence, the “side-eye” or any other negative reaction, it’s probably inefficient.
When our processes are ineffective, the need for action becomes obvious. We’re quick and more than willing to make change when something isn’t working … However, we’re slower to take notice when a process becomes inefficient. If we are committed to creating work environments where everyone is able to achieve at optimal levels, we must do better at evaluating our processes for inefficiencies and recalibrating accordingly on a more routine basis.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel … but a little cleaning and detailing on the wheels you have won’t hurt. And maybe chrome rims!