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How to Increase Capacity Through BPI: Part 1

by Mike Sabbatis, CEO, XCM

Seth Godin describes one of the most significant and difficult to overcome challenges of our time in 12 words: “We’re so busy doing our jobs, we can’t get any work done.”

Why are we so busy? Because the pace of business continues to increase, and we often tend to do the work rather than delegate to staff because we think it’s “easier” than creating a business process to follow. Other times we face competing and changing priorities and high-pressure deadlines.

As we busy ourselves with being busy, it’s worth asking what is the cost?

Are we too busy to effectively attract, develop, and retain top talent, or identify the most profitable lines of business?

How do we mindfully step away from being “busy” and into the “work” that will propel our organization forward?

How do we increase our capacity?

One way to do this is to reduce bottlenecks and create better business processes. Over the course of this three-part series, you will learn how to identify bottlenecks that are harmful to your organization, what business process improvement methods can be utilized to reduce those bottlenecks, and the importance of continuous improvement to ensure that bottlenecks do not reoccur.

Identifying Bottlenecks

Every organization is challenged to complete work accurately and on time. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “lost time is never found again.”

Unfortunately, the technology to create more hours in the day doesn’t exist, so how do we create more time without bending the laws of physics? We increase capacity by decreasing bottlenecks at every level of the organization.

Bottlenecks can be expressed by a simple equation:

Increased workload + dysfunctional business process management = bottlenecks

Increased Workload

It is important to note that an increased workload isn’t inherently bad or unhealthy. Each one can be a sign that the organization is flourishing. You might see workloads increase due to:

  • Changing regulatory requirements. Every time congress passes a tax law overhaul (TCJA or the SECURE act, for example) or auditing standard adjustments occur, staff needs 2-3 years to become subject matter experts about the changes and how they affect your clients.

  • Business growth initiatives. Leaders have great ideas, outstanding vision, and a drive for growth; it’s part of the job description. However, vision and growth initiatives create a heavier workload.

  • Work compression and rework. There is continued pressure to do more with less, and often as work gets done, rework needs to occur. As much as we’d like to eliminate rework, some of it is healthy, such a change in priorities or new data coming to light. But rework also occurs because of poor or incomplete behind-the-scenes processes.

  • M&A activity. Mergers and acquisitions are a part of life, not only for our customers and clients but also within the industry. Every M&A activity brings with it a tremendous opportunity for business growth but also brings additional workload.

Dysfunctional Business Processes

Unlike an increased workload, having dysfunctional business processes is never a positive sign. Frequent contributors to dysfunctional process management include:

  • Lack of clarity in work expectations. This is not simply a side effect of the millennial generation looking for guidance, feedback, and recognition - we all want to know what’s expected of us. A lack of clarity places additional stress not only on individuals responsible for the work but also on those responsible for managing the individual and delivering the output.

  • Ineffective or absent business processes. These often occur when someone tries to solve a problem or work through a project without the rest of the team, or one “key” member of the organization fails to document processes. Ineffective business processes may also arise because “that’s the way things have always been done.”

  • Excess meetings, emails, and Excel spreadsheets. When there is a lack of visibility into project statuses, weekly and daily meetings quickly become the norm. Some organizations prefer email to meetings, leading to hundreds of emails per day. And while Excel is an outstanding tool, it is not difficult to share without errors and possibly file corruption.

  • Manual process management. Rather than automate, processes are managed through meetings, emails, Excel, text messages, and every other possible form of communication.

Combining dysfunctional business processes with increased workloads and manual processes as the glue holding everything together creates a recipe guaranteed to create bottlenecks and kill capacity. When operating under these conditions, something will be missed.

It’s not a matter of if, but when – there is no capacity to maintain visibility and have a clear understanding of what’s happening at all levels of the organization.

Now that we’ve identified causes of bottlenecking, how do we reduce these to increase your organization’s capacity? In part two, we’ll discuss how to use business process improvement to reduce bottlenecks and increase capacity while providing you with the visibility necessary to run your business.

Look for part two of this three-part series on XCM’s blog in June!

Mike Sabbatis is XCM's CEO. He has extensive experience leading fast-paced, customer-focused organizations leveraging innovative, forward-looking technologies that disrupt the norm while sustaining long-term profitable growth. He has led and inspired global teams comprised of more than 2,500 employees, as well as divisional start-ups and joint ventures.

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