Internal improvement is a constant and often invisible process. There is no silver bullet and you can’t solve every problem overnight. It is a long slog and you have to balance short-term ‘putting out fires’ with long-term process improvement that will (hopefully) make life easier and set you up for future success.
I would like to walk through some of the changes that we at gothamCulture have made this past year to streamline our processes and allow our team to focus on delivering value and great customer service to our clients.
Why did we spend our energy figuring out all these internal processes? Like many growing companies, we reached a growth point where the ‘by the seat of our pants’ method no longer worked. You can’t spend your whole day putting out fires (and being inconsistent about what tool you use each time).
If you really want to focus on your clients, you need to have tried and true internal processes that you don’t have to think about. In our case, as an organizational development consultancy, we realized that many of the processes we suggest to our clients work just as well for us.
We have about twenty team members but have processes and procedures that companies ten times our size would be familiar with. While this might sound like a recipe for ‘death by process’, we have found that the act of establishing our ‘rules’ helps us—as a team—decide what is most important to us, allows us to stop re-inventing the wheel, and focuses our efforts on the value that we can truly bring to our clients.
To this end, we have developed an employee handbook to let our team know how we as a company support them, an employee process and procedures manual that spells out all the tools and systems they can use to be successful at gothamCulture, and our ‘gC process’, which spells out everything from onboarding, to proposal writing, to project management.
In addition, we have focused all our internal efforts on streamlining our technology platforms to allow fewer points of data entry and more self-service capability for our team. This helps them find the resources and tools they need faster, waste less time, and reach a higher level of performance.
We all know that one size doesn’t fill all, but at minimum you should think about the following tools for your company: electronic timekeeping and expense reporting, third party payroll and 401K administration (we use an integrated platform so employees can self-manage their 401K’s and it automatically updates in our payroll system), and some type of overall project management system.
This last one, perhaps, has been our greatest focus as we move into the new year. We started using a PM tool just for client projects, but have since reconfigured our processes to use this tool more and more as our internal process management platform. For instance, we set up projects to represent our onboarding, proposal generation, and invoicing processes.
By centralizing these functions, we have decreased our error rate (for data entry and multiple file copies floating around the team), increased our team communications (ensuring that company-wide resources are, in fact, company-wide), and ultimately increased our productivity and capacity for value-add work for our clients. In particular, running our onboarding process as a project has significantly increased new hire satisfaction and set the stage for their success.
Hopefully you will see—as we have—that the journey to develop your internal systems is, in and of itself, a valuable part of figuring out what is important to your organization and by thinking about these issues, you are setting your team up for future success.