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The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Business Processes


When it comes to business processes everyone has something to say. Other entrepreneurs, managers and small business owners. Your hair stylist. Your grandma. Not to mention the various business publications that are overstuffed with content about best practices and what you should be doing with your life.

But some advice takes the cake. Here are some of the most damaging (or just plain terrible) pieces of (well-meant) advice about business processes we’ve come across. Proceed with caution.

1. This is the only way to set up your processes for success

This particular piece of advice comes disguised in various garbs. Someone relatively successful sits you down and shares their business process. And then firmly tells you that if you want to succeed, that is the only way.

This is usually meant well. However, just because a process works for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for you. That’s the same as claiming everyone should drive your favorite car or embrace your workout routine as the only way to get fit.

Successful business processes are customized to fit your business, your team, your customers, and your goals. So feel free to ignore someone else’s solutions as the only way forward.

2. Don’t worry about the basics

While you probably won’t hear this particular piece of advice worded quite so bluntly, the underlying implications are usually there in one shape or another.

Instead of focusing on getting your basic business processes down and optimized, various well meaning advisors keep pointing out the next step. You’ll be told to upgrade to a new tool or bring a specialist on board, or speak to a consultant– but your processes and your business may not be ready for any of these things yet.

So while it’s important to keep growth front and center, feel free to ignore advice that doesn’t fit your current stage of development.

3. Processes kill creativity and innovation

A streamlined, optimized process can propel your business forward and boost creativity. A poorly structured, bloated process, however, can do the opposite. Most people who dish out this advice have been burned by too much structure and pointless inefficiency.

When done right, processes can help your team work faster by providing a structured framework that encourages your team to use their judgement and experience. Just make sure that the structure itself allows room for creativity and you’ll avoid the negatives.

4. Once you set up your initial processes, you are set for life

Like everything else in your business, processes need to be tested and optimized overtime. The second you start following a strict “this is the way we do things” path, you begin to stifle creativity and innovation in your team.

This lowers productivity, has a negative impact on sales, and usually decreases employee satisfaction. Instead, create flexible processes that can be adjusted as you go to increase performance, team cohesion and business performance.

Set a time every quarter (or at a time line that makes sense for your business) to cut the junk out of processes and simplify them again to align them with your team’s needs and your business goals.

5. Automate your existing processes

Automating parts of your business processes, like team or client onboarding, can save you time and help the business run smoother. However, don’t fall into the trap of automating your entire existing processes. Not only could you build redundancies into your automation, but you could also set it up with overlooked errors.

Instead, spend some time with each department and map out simple automation based on their best practices. Then set these processes up for testing. For the first 30 days, watch them and make regular adjustments. Then set up regular times to review and optimize so that your processes work at maximum efficiency.

6. It’s ok to keep all your processes in your head

Even if you run a very small team, mapping out your processes can improve performance. When something isn’t apparent, it can’t be measured and therefore it can’t be improved.

Plus, hiding your processes creates confusion– if you are the one that holds all the pieces, it makes your team dependant on you and decreases their productivity.

7. The C-Suite and management knows best

Most government processes (no matter what country you are in) are frustratingly inefficient. One of the chief reasons for this is that they are created in meeting rooms far removed from the actual people responsible for the day to day tasks. This approach benefits no one.

If you want your processes to be efficient, bring the people who use them on board. Creating a process for your engineering department? Bring on the engineers and ask them what helps them to do their job better (and what doesn’t). Then use that feedback to create an initial process, then test and adjust it over time.

Focus on custom solutions, not out-the-box advice

Most people who share bad advice mean well. They want to share their successes and failures. It’s up to you to only take the parts that apply to your business and ignore the rest.

And if you think a piece of advice will work for you, test it out and measure the results before committing to it fully.

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