One of the most famous examples of the value of streamlining must be Henry Ford’s 1913 moving assembly line. Before this innovation, workers clustered around a single spot to assemble 3,000 pieces to build a single car. Ford’s assembly line reduced the process to 84 synchronized steps requiring less time and fewer workers.
Managers know that streamlining processes reduces errors and duplications and increases efficiency, productivity, and quality. Haphazard approaches to tasks fail far more often than not by any measure. Like Ford, managers are constantly seeking new ways their teams can work smarter, better, faster, and stronger.
For every great reason there is to streamline task management, there are multiple tools teams can use to help. Managers face the challenge of finding the sweet spot between implementing useful tools and techniques and overwhelming their team members. Do it wrong, and the image of Ford’s fluid assembly line is replaced by Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory.
Don’t forgo the merits of streamlining the tasks your team is responsible for because change is difficult. Research the available technology, learn how you can streamline tasks, and highlight the benefits to the process. Do it right, and your team will be doing its version of assembling cars or wrapping chocolates with the greatest of ease.
Choose the Best Technology for Your Team
Google “technology to streamline tasks,” and you’ll get more than 37 million results in less than a second. Of course, only certain technology will be suited for the tasks your team is tackling. That means you have your job cut out for you to find what works.
What it doesn’t mean is that you need to figure it out on your own. Let those responsible for carrying out business processes weigh in to narrow the field of tool choices. A team engaged in selecting streamlining technology will be more engaged in implementing it.
Every team needs to hold productive meetings, so start your streamlining efforts there. Meeting productivity and efficiency is easy to achieve if you’re using an intuitive meeting agenda from the start. Meeting agenda templates make it snap to develop agendas that will yield purposeful, engaging, interactive, and results-driven meetings.
When attempting to streamline tasks, don’t just buy the software program that comes with the most bells and whistles. Whether your challenge is to streamline lead management, employee onboarding, your supply chain, or invoicing, assess your existing problems first. Once you identify bottlenecks, you can look for tech that will solve those specific problems.
Gather input about both problems and potential solutions from those on your team with boots on the ground. Keep them involved in what can be an intensive search for technology that’s going to help everyone streamline processes. What you implement should help you achieve those streamlining goals while not overwhelming the team members who will get you there.
Get Everything in Sync
A streamlined process is all about everything running in perfect synchronization. From the beginning of the process through its conclusion, each task should work seamlessly with every other task. That doesn’t just happen on its own because there are far too many moving parts.
The first step to syncing processes is to make sure each task in the process is documented. Document where a task begins, who is involved, where it ends, and what steps are required to get there. If there are inefficiencies within the task, develop solutions to address them so the task itself is streamlined.
Next, examine the intersection of tasks in sequential order. Check for problems that may occur when negotiating the intersection and those that create a problem in the adjacent task. It’s not enough to streamline each task in a vacuum because they have to transition with ease.
You may want to use workflow software to help identify bumps, including redundancies, repetitive actions, and gaps. Because there are variables in most processes, make sure tasks are designed to be agile enough to adapt to them. Team members need to know what variables to look out for and have a method to respond to them.
Remember that processes are not completed by technology alone. Your team members need to be working in sync with one another and with the technology being used. If you can get the rails lined up right, let them drive the train.
Get Buy-In on Streamlining Benefits
As a manager, you see a process from beginning to end, but not every member of your team does. Many of them see only one small task. It’s your job to make sure everyone sees the big picture, even if they’re only responsible for one or two pixels.
Streamlining doesn’t just benefit your company’s bottom line. It benefits your customers by producing a higher-quality product, perhaps at a lower price, and with greater transparency. It benefits vendors and suppliers by improving efficiency and accountability.
Above all, streamlining benefits team members by reducing their ability to err, setting realistic expectations, and rewarding them for productivity. It simplifies their training, eliminates data silos, and improves communication down the line. Streamlining tasks can boost morale, empower teams, and garner the buy-in necessary to implement improvements.
Consider team members who provide customer support via live chat. Implementing software that screens questions, so they’re routed to the right team member, streamlines the process. That, in turn, improves satisfaction for both the customer and the employee.
Live chat team members are even better equipped to provide support if they understand how that software works. So make sure they can see that piece of the picture. They’ll buy into a process that makes their job easier and customers happier.
Streamlining tasks has come a long way since production of the Model T. Tools at your disposal are far more sophisticated than the ropes and pulleys that moved the first assembly line. But if you can achieve your company’s equivalent of building a car in 1 hour and 33 minutes instead of 12, it’s worth the effort.
This article was written in cooperation with Shauna Smith