Business operations efficiency for success

In Summary

•Look out for the tasks that take a lot of time. Or tasks that are so manual.

•Or tasks that have a ripple effect across different departments such as from Business Operations to Finance to Sales.

Joanne Kabiru.
Joanne Kabiru.

To begin with, let us define the word Efficiency – this is the ability to avoid wasting materials, energy, efforts, money, and time in doing something or in producing the desired result. In a more general sense, it is the ability to do things well, successfully, and without waste.

However, most people confuse the word with the other business word – Effectiveness. This one is defined as the capability of producing the desired result or output. From a business perspective, it is the level of results from the actions of employees and managers. Employees and managers who demonstrate effectiveness in the workplace help produce high-quality results.

Back to Operational Efficiency; according to Forbes, “when a business runs efficiently, people spend less time on unproductive tasks and more time fulfilling high-level assignments. This, in turn, leads employees to feel less stressed and more empowered because they're not trying to keep up with exasperatingly long to-do lists.”

This simply means that in business, one needs to have strategic and focused energy in order to maximize business results with the least effort.

How does one find the tasks to focus on?

Look out for the tasks that take a lot of time. Or tasks that are so manual. Or tasks that have a ripple effect across different departments such as from Business Operations to Finance to Sales.

To give examples, I will share some scenarios that I have encountered over my career.

The first one was during the Safaricom Initial Public Offering in 2008. In Kenya, this was a greatly subscribed offering and true to the Company, it achieved its target and surpassed it. However, for the brokers and investment banks that were processing the applications to subscribe for the Safaricom IPO shares, there was a myriad of challenges that came with the task.

There were millions of applications received, some that were funded, and some were not funded. And thereafter, there were refunds to be made to applicants with unsuccessful applications. So the first task was to categorize all applications in the different categories and thereafter keep sifting until all applications are in a category. The top-notch efficiency and team management skills applied during this project ensured the high success rate and surpassing of set KPIs. 

The second example is technologically based. In this specific company, some business operations processes were running manually and impacting different departments yet there were systems in place. The major challenge here was inadequate automation of business processes and a delay in optimizing the capability of the existing systems. The key task was to sit with each department and identify what the pain points were in their workflows.

Systems are designed to make work easier and as businesses, we need to utilize this to the maximum. More often than not, the business will have a system vendor and they need to be engaged to meet this requirement. Once you identify the pain points, identify the system solution, and then engage the system vendor to implement the solutions. Once automation was reactivated, operational efficiency substantially improved and led to saving both time and resources for the business.

What are the key benefits of Operations Efficiency?

This will save time in different departments, there will be a reduction in errors and it allows you the freedom to focus on business exceptions and not the business as usual (BAU) tasks. On a soft note, it improves teamwork, improves team morale, aids personal discipline and allows for suggestions for improvement within the company/organization.

To close, it is important to mention the Japanese term “KAIZEN”. This means continuous improvement or changing for the better. It is a Japanese business philosophy regarding the processes that continuously improve operations and involve all employees. Kaizen sees improvement in productivity as a gradual and methodical process.

This way, the business is under continuous monitoring for improvement but maintaining quality standards of delivery.

In the words of Robin Sharma, there are 10 tips of Business Efficiency:

  • Provide the Right Tools – whether it is systems or staff training, it will repay itself tenfold in terms of getting work done quickly and accurately.
  • Do a Daily Stand Up - a short, daily team meeting can improve business efficiency. Keep your team updated on what everyone is working on, who needs help and who might have extra time and problems or questions team members have. Face-to-face communication is the most efficient.
  • Channel Your Team and Company Focus - Don’t confuse being busy with being productive – they’re not necessarily related. We all know someone who is always busy, but never seems to get anything done.
  • Know What To Cut - Examine your operations and the processes you have in place. Look for redundancies, dated or excessively complicated processes or unclear procedures. These are all prime candidates for consolidation or elimination. But don’t cut corners. Prioritizing efficiency over quality or safety only leads to bigger problems down the line – when they’re more expensive to fix.
  • Know What to Build - Creation is just as important as cutting. Document every task your departments perform regularly, no matter how big or small. This serves two purposes: documentation helps you see spots where you can be even more efficient, and it lays out a process others can follow in case its typical executors are out.
  • Never Stop Improving - Business efficiency requires a certain mindset – one of constant improvement, hunger and the knowledge that there is always more to learn. It’s a personal trait, but it is also one that you can make a part of your company culture. It will encourage risk-taking and innovation in your employees, which are both important in creating efficiency.
  • Use Technology - In terms of tools to help us make business – and our lives – more efficient, there has never been a more exciting time to be alive. Use technology like automation strategically to complement the strong workforce you develop.
  • Maintain High Morale - Your employees aren’t going to work hard if they’re not happy. Do your part by creating a safe, welcoming environment where they’ll want to work. This isn’t just about company BBQs or free snacks, either. Understanding your leadership style and how your employees want to be led and spoken to is critical to building a business they’ll want to stay at.
  • Delegate - There’s nothing worse than the boss who tries to do everything themselves. If you’re overseeing the entire show, then you aren’t a boss, you’re an operations manager. You hired your employees for a reason – to work for you – so let them get to it. Show them how to do the work they need to do and step back until they need your help.
  • Build Trust - Building trust in the workplace leads to stronger bonds between employer and employee, as well as between colleagues. Trusting people to do their jobs without looming over them helps create a place where they feel valued and free to do their best work. In return, if you’re honest and transparent with employees, they’re more likely to return the favor, providing valuable insight on tasks, products, services and more.

Simply put, to attain optimal Business Efficiency, one has to look at 3 key areas:

  • Set goals,
  • Communicate these goals to your team, and finally,
  • Set reasonable benchmarks to measure the success

Joanne is a Certified Productivity Coach who assists her clients in maximizing their potential and attaining their goals so as to live a totally intentional life that is very fulfilling. She provides the tools, strategy and support to help people create meaningful change in their lives.

Having achieved maximum results in her almost 2 decades career in Business Operations and Administration in the financial services sector of East Africa; and including the certification, it has empowered her to share the same with others through Coaching.

Get in touch with Joanne via [email protected]

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