A well-oiled machine is made up of different parts, all successfully working together, for one common purpose. Every part has a job to do, and every job exists to enable the machine to function to its best ability. Think about your business for a moment. How would you describe it? Is it a well-oiled machine?
To achieve smooth operation, every organisation, no matter the size, must rely on some standardisation of processes. And like any machine, every organisation also requires fuel to power the engine. In today’s economy, that fuel is information.
It goes without saying that the management of information needs to be carefully controlled and regulated – a task that begins with a trained and structured workforce. Without the appropriate processes and protocols in place however, employees may strive to make up for it by managing information in their own way. Not only can this cause a slowdown in productivity and lead to wasted time, but disorder, over-complexity and mistrust can breed and your machine could come to a halt.
The issue is a complicated one and unfortunately, these types of scenarios are common enough to be worrying. Recent research has found that over half of all office workers do not believe that their companies have well organised storage systems and a quarter criticise them for being overly cumbersome to use. It appears that the well-oiled machine, with its trained workforce and standardised processes is falling foul of over-complication. Unsurprisingly, the effects of this breakdown hit at the heart of the business engine: productivity.
But why is this happening? There appear to be a myriad of different reasons, but in reality these are all connected to one: a lack of process. Put simply the biggest difficulties office workers face when it comes to productivity are all easily solvable. Problems locating historical documents; irregular methods of saving files, and a lack of consistency in format (paper vs digital), can all be corrected with one simple action: standardisation of processes.
It sounds so straightforward – and it is. Unfortunately however, it isn’t always enough. Very often, even existing practices for the management of information can be ignored. For example, in emerging markets, over a third of employees don’t trust their company’s central systems. They then invariably substitute personal storage systems in place of centralised storage, leading to inefficiencies. In fact, 41 per cent of employees store documents on personal devices, a practice that’s both a productivity and security nightmare.
For any business, losing control of where employees are storing information sets a dangerous precedent. The net result is almost always lost time and money for the business: 25 minutes for every worker a day to be specific. But by implementing – and enforcing -- standardised working practices, organisations can claim more control over how their information is managed by employees.
The best way to achieve this is coherence and simplicity. For rules and standards to be adhered to, they have to be consistent, uncomplicated and clear-cut. In this way, haphazard attitudes to saving and storing data will be quelled.
In order to transform an organisation into a hive of productivity, every employee that is sharing or managing data needs to do so in a standard and consistent way. For your business machine to run at optimum efficiency, the different parts all need to be fully connected and working together. If they stop collaborating, or if one part steps out of sync with the others, the bottom line will suffer. Over half of workers already recognise that poor organisation and lack of standardised processes is negatively impacting their ability to serve customers. It is this knowledge which should form the foundations of implementing proper standards and rules, to guarantee a truly information-fuelled and well-oiled machine.
A version of this article originally appeared on Information Age.