We all want to be effective, and we all want to be efficient. Too often, these two qualities do not play well together. 

To be more efficient, businesses cut resources and steps. Then, struggling to achieve results (i.e. seeing their effectiveness decrease), they throw money or time at the quickest fix available. 

It is the pursuit of “lean” in business: growing and selling and hiring, but all the while using as few resources as possible. The thing to understand is that “lean” is not about bootstrapped: it is about being effective. About how to eliminate friction and indecision from your business. 

Consider these areas. 

Focus

Does everybody know what they should be doing?

I don’t mean the tasks they perform or activities they do every day. 

Do people know what is expected of them? Do they know how you want them to work and what you want them to achieve?

When you are clear about expectations, your people can focus on what they need to do. You can eliminate uncertainty and distractions

Describe each role in your business by what it is meant to achieve. Then let people manage themselves to get the work done. 

Access

Let information flow freely. 

People need to know how to find out what they don’t know. 

Do what you can to give your people all the information they need. But more importantly: make sure they know where to get more information. This is what collaboration is all about

Make sure people know who to talk to. Make sure they know how to talk to them: should they ask for a meeting, send an email, use an internal chat system? And make sure people communicate freely across the organization. 

Process

Write it down. 

Create a simple and repeatable system that anybody can learn.

The better documented your systems are, the more valuable your business is. This is because you will have created a reliable and proven way to create value. 

And there’s more: the better documented your system is, the easier it will be for people to find areas for improvement. Having a set process lets people view each step in isolation, and when something breaks down it is simple to find the area that needs fixing. 

The better documented your systems are, the more valuable your business is.

Values

This all works when you have strong guiding principles. 

Build your value statement, make it clear, share it with everyone involved (yes: even clients). 

Your internal values are your guiding principles, describing how your company works and how people will behave. 

Your value chain is the promise you make to clients about how you will work with them and how you will serve them. The more they know what to expect, the easier each project will be.