Every now and then I reach out on twitter, and ask for guest posts.  The request is always very open ended.  Would you like to share your expertise, as it relates to small business owners?.   I never have any specfic expectations and I am always delighted by the results.   Today’s guest post by Bill Lundy is no exception!

“…every product, every operation, and every activity in a business should be put on trial for its life every two or three years.” Peter Drucker

A business should periodically review its key workflows looking for ways to improve quality, lower cost, or save time. A workflow review does not need to be a cumbersome process involving countless meetings, flowcharts, and spreadsheets. A simple walkthrough approach is often just as effective. Thank goodness!

In a 1992 Harvard Business Review article titled “Staple Yourself to an Order,” the authors discussed doing a step-by-step review of a workflow by actually walking the sequence of activities across the organization. It remains a valid approach today.

During the review, look for ways to eliminate redundant or unnecessary actions, strengthen flawed procedures, and simplify complex routines. An often overlooked aspect of a workflow is the percentage of inactive time between steps (waiting to be processed, approved, checked, etc.) Typically, a greater percentage of time is spent inactive than active.

Reducing inactive time can yield significant time and cost savings.

For example, assume a “customer order” workflow takes about 30 minutes to complete. The workflow has several steps totaling 10 minutes active-time and 20 minutes inactive time. After a review, improvements reduce active-time by 50% to 5 minutes. As a result, the total workflow time shrinks by 17% to 25 minutes. Instead, if efforts were made to reduce inactive-time by 50% to 10 minutes, the total workflow time shrinks by twice that amount to approximately 33%. The savings allows enough time for an additional order to be processed each hour!

Workflows are vital business assets that create value. So, take a “hike” through one. Poke, prod, and ponder its path. Ask questions, challenge assumptions, and seek ideas for improvements to create new dimensions of performance.

bill lundhy

Have questions or comments? Contact me through www.happenbetter.com or reach out on Twitter at @happenbetter.

Bill Lundy is principal at HappenBetter, a service agency focused on collaboration systems and mobile/tablet apps for workplace leaders and teams. He has an MBA from Purdue and over twenty-five years software and management experience.