People love taking shortcuts. You've probably seen ads that state you can become a millionaire in a month or that you can lose 50 pounds by the summer. People have the tendency to seek out shortcuts to get to the destination that much quicker and try to skip key steps in the process. However, a shortcut is not a substitute for a process.
Anyone who has ever truly been successful has a set of processes and practices they followed to get to where they are -- from artists to athletes to anesthesiologists. And it's no different when running a business. While it's easy to resort to taking a shortcut or two, fight that urge. Shortcuts may work in the short term, but you'll feel the pain in the long term when those shortcuts short circuit.
Here are a few things to consider to fortify your business against shortcuts.
Process and practice over everything.
A defined process helps extract greater efficiencies and creates a consistently reliable experience. End users know what to expect because there is a laid-out process that is clearly understood. Efficient processes also support business continuity because a solid process can serve as 'bread crumbs' that allow everyone to follow broader instructions.
Develop a well-defined process, implement process mapping that enables an end-to-end understanding of the workflow, sequence the requisite pieces, determine how long each step takes, and determine the owners. The early prep and planning will pay off in droves but it requires some upfront work.
Don't break process for speed.
Sometimes shortcuts are an occupational necessity when trade-offs must be made to deliver on a product or a deadline. That said, shortcuts should be the exception, not the norm.
Sometimes parts of the business may ask you to make a concession and create a shortcut. When that happens, you have to ask yourself if the new shortcut solely benefits the requestor or the entire enterprise.
When you start to default to shortcuts, it begins the spiral of inefficiency. Put another way, habitually taking shortcuts is just laziness and a house of cards waiting to fall.
I often say, slow down to speed up. This means designing processes and practices thoughtfully. When those are solidified, you can dramatically accelerate because the process is enduringly sound.
Have discipline and rigor.
A big part of a solid process is also being disciplined and not breaking from your established processes. Coupled with rigor in developing a holistic strategy that addresses the needs of the full enterprise, you can be far more successful and at scale.
However, if you make one-offs the norm, you're pushing an operating model of inefficiency that is bound to break. When you're efficient, you can unlock numerous advantages through economies of scale such as cost and time.
Scale excellence over scaling heroics.
My boss once told me that heroics do not scale, and it's something I've come to truly believe. Going above and beyond is a great attribute but it shouldn't be the norm because it cannot scale or in many instances cannot be replicated or be sustained. This is where team capability and reliance on the full team's skills come into play.
Heroics can lead to shortcutting as the organization develops over-reliance on one person or function, which then can create a single point of failure for the whole enterprise. Sound business continuity requires reducing risk and being prepared for scenarios that could disrupt operations.
To effectively scale excellence is done through thoughtful and intentional process mapping to understand who on the team does what and when. A solid process greatly decreases heroics and reduces burnout due to uneven distribution of work, and those process improvements can evolve as the business grows. Given all that we are facing in the pandemic, a few well-considered processes may even stave off unwanted attrition, because you won't be overtaxing your highest performers.