In the last three issues of the SalesPulse we have concentrated on focusing efforts on customers and identifying the benefits that accrue from a customer intimate business strategy. (If you have not read these newsletters you can find them here). In this issue we will begin the process of understanding how simplification of a business can develop further benefits. But what do I mean by “simplify”? Here is the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of simplify:

Make (something) simpler or easier to do or understand.

Over time businesses become more complicated. For example:
–  Organisations follow their leaders. Bad management habits such as poor meeting discipline, ad hoc requests for information cascade themselves down the organisation causing more work and job complexity. Quite often WE, and our actions are the hidden cause of complexity
– As organisations grow they become more complex in structure, managerial levels increase and spans of control shrink. In some organisations whole new departments are created to manage some “new” activity. Organisational complexity slows decision making and responsiveness.
– Business processes evolve to cater for ever changing demands, for prevention of problems or for the imposition of controls. Generally speaking something goes wrong and there is an “institutional response” that fixes the problem.
– New and more IT systems are introduced that often generate work, Customer Relationship Management is a good example.
– Products and services become more numerous and complex through the introduction of widgets that offer value added or differentiation.
– I have often found that when you question someone on an issue, there is the classic middle management response “You don’t understand, it’s not that simple”! In most cases it is that simple
– And of course there is all the legislation and regulation to deal with.
Many of our readers are from small and medium businesses and don’t suffer from this complexity issue, or do they? I have a view but I’ll let you decide this once we have examined the nature of work.
In simple terms work comes in three varieties.
– There is work that we do that directly benefits our customers. This includes selling, product development, service delivery, customer services and satisfaction management. This we will call essential work.
– Then there is work which is entirely internal. This includes review processes, business approvals, internal auditing etc. Look at this work from the customers’ perspective – are they interested in what your internal processes are? If they do not benefit the customer they are inessential work
– There is work we have to do because of legislation. We have to do VAT returns for example. They are not essential in the context of these definitions but are necessary work. The same can be said of compliance, but done properly compliance can be a competitive advantage.
All these different types of work map onto business processes, which should be documented; but from my experience are generally not, however that is another debate. As stated earlier processes evolve because circumstances change or more commonly because problems occur or more worryingly people are not trusted. It is often more expedient and less costly, in the short term to add to a process than understand the real reasons causing the problem. This is a false economy because you keep paying through additional work whether the problem re-occurs or not.
So, let’s start making things simple by looking at all the non customer benefitting things we do and as Bruce Lee says in our Quote of the month, hack away at the inessentials. The benefits are lower costs, more “real work” time and better profits. We can help to kick start your simplification efforts by providing you with our “good and bad uses of sales time” report. Click here to download it