Can Trainers Help Simplify Business Processes?

You know there’s a problem when your boss’ “solutions” always require additional steps and tasks. This is similar to a patient whose medication and “cure” is worse than the disease.

A blog I saw on The Huffington Post by Josh Bersin speaks to the problem of needlessly complicated business processes. Most of us are familiar with this problem. At your company, do you find that the answer to business challenges is usually to add steps to getting work done, rather than eliminating them? If so, how can trainers and learning professionals help? Do learning specialists have a role to play in helping to simplify work processes?

The tendency to complicate, rather than simplify, relates to corporate culture, and corporate culture usually begins getting ingrained in new employees as soon as they’re hired. A segment of your new hire program could include an example of a business challenge and then an exercise in which the new hires work through the challenge, including productive ways to discuss it, ways to collaborate (the technology tools and all other resources available to them in their new jobs), along with solutions that keep the company’s work flow smooth. You have the opportunity to stress simple work processes as a core corporate value. This value begins with your employees’ internal work processes, but it also can help improve service to customers or clients. Your employees aren’t the only ones who appreciate simplicity—those you sell products or services to also appreciate it.

After all, who wants to do business with a company that requires them to go through five steps before the product they paid for can be delivered when only one or two steps were necessary? In addition to irritation at the inconvenience and added effort required to do business with that kind of company, the customer might begin to wonder if the company is milking the job to be able to charge more, or if it is otherwise cheating them.

Sometimes needless complication comes from disorganization and scurrying around at the last minute to accomplish tasks. Planning ahead in an organized fashion can keep work processes simpler because you avoid last-minute “emergencies.” You can ingrain the value of planning and organizing in advance as a way to be respectful to both your colleagues and customers. A system in which employees and their managers map out at the beginning of every month the tasks they need to accomplish, and when everything is due over the course of the month, is a simple way to keep things simple. Instead of last-minute surprises that require scrambling for resources, employees can calmly plot out what they need, when, and from whom. I’ve noticed that “challenges” don’t seem as challenging when you have time to think about them calmly and tackle them methodically step by step.

In my own work, I’ve seen the great difference planning ahead makes. Instead of a missed deadline from a contributor to my publication throwing me into a tailspin of anxiety, I usually can offer an extension of at least a week or two with no interruption to my work group’s business processes. I’ve planned and spaced out the resources well enough in advance, so what could have been a complicated problem often isn’t a problem at all.

A funny thing I’ve noticed in the work world is sometimes the people who make the greatest show of being organized are actually the least organized. They come to meetings with their official-looking clipboard, and sometimes even type up elaborate agendas, but when they are asked a question, they are in the dark, and a day after the meeting, they have little recollection or record of what was discussed and decided.

Since meetings are still a common way to make decisions at companies, you could add a meetings tool to your company’s intranet or internal social media site that employees could access on their personal mobile device or on a company device. The idea is for meeting participants to have a real-time way of entering information presented and decisions reached into their digital files, including project names with deadlines and primary contacts and resources required. The tool could be set up in a way that doesn’t allow participants to close or save the file without filling out all the fields for each project logged into the system. So, as the meeting progresses, each participant is able to jot down the name of the project or assignment that has resulted from the discussion, the people and other resources they are being provided with to get it done, and when it is due. If you frequently have meetings that result in no assignments or projects generated, then that may be a sign of overly complicated, inefficient work processes. Frequent unproductive meetings may signal a culture so complicated that nothing can be decided without multiple meetings. Do you think that’s a problem? I do.

Does your organization suffer from overly complicated work processes? What can learning professionals do to simplify workflow?