6 questions to ask when a process is broken

I want to share one of the most profound things I have learned in nearly 20 years of small business ownership: the workaround is not the solution.

In the heat of battle you are likely to find short-term workarounds to get a project completed. You are going to use duct tape and bubble gum to make things work in a pinch. It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s going to save the day.

Unfortunately this short-term workaround is sometimes left in place and becomes the de facto practice.

Here are 6 questions to ask yourself when you know a process or workflow is sketchy, but don’t know exactly how to start making it better.

Is part of this process shrouded in mystery?

A simple way for a process to break down is when a part of the process is a mystery to the end users. The team knows to push the button or turn the knob, but no one understands why, or what to do when these actions stop working.

Who might have a helpful insight as I evaluate this process?

Is there someone internal (or maybe even external, like a friend or a customer) to whom you could demonstrate the process in order to get their feedback? Insiders and outsiders will have very different perspectives and both can be invaluable as you look for weaknesses.

Why? (but ask it at least 5 times in a row)

LEAN methodology espouses the “Five Whys,” a practice in which you ask WHY (at least) 5 times to move beyond the superficial causes and discover contributing factors that need to be addressed. The problem of routine paper jams in the printer might have nothing to do with the printer itself and everything to do with how the paper is stored prior to being used…

Why am I avoiding this?

If you find yourself actively avoiding a busted workflow, the reason why may be incredibly telling because it will teach you how to combat it. The “Five Whys” should be incredibly useful here, too.

How would my competitor deal with this?

We know all of our own imperfections, but often attribute an unrealistic genius to our competitors. So, use that to your advantage. Imagine how they would handle the problem or ruminate on why they wouldn’t have the problem in the first place.

How could I simplify this process?

Instead of thinking of the solution as additive – what do I need to bolt onto this process to make it work better? – consider the possibility of removing something. Is there a way to accomplish the desired outcome with fewer steps, fewer people, or fewer tools? 

If you are ready to get serious about troubleshooting and improving your processes so you can make your business work for you, check out my Make Your Business Work For You Mastermind that kicks off on April 10th. 
You, and a small cohort of profitable owners, will spend 12-weeks fundamentally redefining your relationship with your business and developing the processes and documentation necessary to start delegating more effectively. Join now at http://geoffwelch.com/mastermind.