At one of our monthly catch-up sessions, my mentor and I sat marvelling at some of the tech trends that had occurred over the last few years.
Tasks that usually took a few hours or days to complete, had been simplified and could now be executed in no time. My business was growing at a steady pace and the amount of tasks that had to be completed weekly had increased considerably.
“Do your processes suffer from the equivalent of metal fatigue from continuous use?” my mentor asked me. A valid question that I hadn’t really considered while my business was growing.
I thought of all the processes I currently had in place and realised that a number of them had in fact aged over the years and were on the verge of ‘snapping’ from metal fatigue.
Trash your fax machine
“If you want your business to expand further, you’ll need to get rid of that fax machine,” my mentor warned me.
When I first started my business, fax machines were the go-to means of communicating.
Years later, sales teams no longer send faxes upon returning to the office after a client meeting. This process is now much more efficient because a sales executive can email clients any info they require while sitting in a meeting with them.
Everything has a shelf life
A business process which was the right choice initially, may not necessarily be the right process six months later. It’s important to keep in mind that all processes and systems have a shelf life as a result of the rate of change of the contexts in which they exist.
Processes, like metal, suffer from fatigue over extended periods of use and become vulnerable to breaking because their strength diminishes. The ‘weakening’ of the process is less a function of the use, and more the function of context change.
As processes age, they need to be adapted to the context in which they reside. Many small businesses land up with processes that were written and implemented years ago, and the context has now changed.
It could be an internal one, where a role no longer exists or the person who held a role has left the business, or it could be an external process, where laws or technology have changed.
It is crucial that you constantly adapt your internal processes, otherwise you will end up sentencing your staff to follow processes that are now irrelevant. When hiring new staff, use this opportunity to check the processes they are learning in order to ensure that they are learning processes that are still relevant.
Rome wasn’t built in a day
Always be mindful of the fact that change will not happen overnight. It takes time and is a slow conversion from one process into another – fax messages did not evolve into emails overnight. Very often there is a transition period where two technologies are used together until one dominates.
You have to constantly scan your processes to see whether they are relevant to any internal or external changes that are happening, and always be aware of when processes are not sensitive to changes in context.
You don’t have to change an entire process in your business if it works; instead adapt it slowly to the context changes as they occur.
Your shift questions
The secret to shifting your mindset and therefore your business, is asking yourself the following questions, and answering them honestly:
- Do my processes suffer from the equivalent of metal fatigue from continuous use?
- Which processes do I need to adapt now due to context changes?
- Are new staff learning processes which are relevant now?