Eliminate friction points in the business

Departments - Words of Wilson

October 31, 2017

Words of Wilson will teach you each month to better understand, develop and manage your most valuable resource – your people.

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Are your customers happy with your performance but frustrated with your processes? Eliminating the friction points in your organization can help.

Friction is made up of the clogged arteries of unhealthy business systems and processes, the wear and tear of poor morale, bottlenecks and red tape – anything that loses sales, impacts service, wastes time and money, and prevents your team from doing its job.

There are superstar exceptions in every company – people who perform at consistently high levels no matter what hurdle they have to jump over. But for most companies, people with varying skills can all elevate their game if the company’s culture is designed to enhance productivity.

If you’re looking to reduce friction, a good place to start is job descriptions. Eliminating overlap and ‘who’s on first’ ambiguity in job structure can make all positions and employees more effective.

Take sales for example. Selling enhancements is an important part of what account managers are expected to do. Superstars hit great numbers but mere mortals often struggle. Why? Account managers have a lot on their plate, especially those who also manage crews. Selling enhancements ends up being more work for account managers who feel like they’re already at capacity. They cannot turn proposals around fast enough. This results in customers losing interest and enthusiasm as they shift their focus elsewhere.

Some companies solve this by having estimators and designers pick up the slack on proposals (eliminating a friction point), making it easier to close the loop and sell enhancements while ensuring that account managers perform to high standards.

Consider investing in meaningful and measurable training to help your employees improve their skills.

Some companies have redesigned account management into two distinct roles: one to manage the customer relationship and one to manage crews. Unfortunately, while it sounds like a win-win, it’s difficult to find people who can do both well.

As positions evolve so that everyone works smarter, the position of field supervisor is getting a lot of attention. Ideally a role designed to manage crews, field supervisors have become gofers for account managers and project ‘firefighters.’ They also, in some cases, get burdened with paperwork and other administrative duties. They can produce better results if they are free to supervise the crews, oversee quality control and train crew leaders to be more effective crew managers. The lack of clarity in what’s expected of them is often the friction that prevents their success.

Paperwork is a constant source of friction. Fortunately, technology and tools exist to rescue you from the thing everyone loves to hate. However, often it’s not the paperwork but the ambiguity of expectation that exists for those responsible for attending to it. This is a job design issue, and investing time into identifying expectations is the key to making documentation and data management more seamless. More and more companies are relying on a suite of new technologies that simplify and automate known areas of friction, such as timekeeping. When supported by knowledge and training – and done consistently by all involved – these technologies will streamline these processes and produce much more accurate job costing.

Consider investing in meaningful and measurable training to help your employees improve their skills, develop their strengths and tackle problem areas. When all employees are given equal opportunities to learn, they achieve uniform excellence at all levels, whether they manage the front lines, the back office or the public face of your company.

When performance falters, eliminate frustration internally and externally. Streamline information and data systems, clarify expectations and organize your business to reduce friction points and the number of steps it takes for you to engage your customer and for your customer to engage with you.

Bruce Wilson is principal of green industry consulting firm Bruce Wilson & Company.