At SUMO Heavy, we hate inefficiency. We’re a small dev shop with just under 20 employees so it’s absolutely critical that we remove any inefficiencies to ensure lean and smooth operations to support our much larger clients. Many entrepreneurs will agree that there are plenty of pros and cons of being small and scrappy but one of the key benefits is being able to quickly identify and resolve inefficient business processes. It’s part of what gives small businesses a competitive edge over the bigger players.
These three practices are some of the most common and inefficient in business today:
1. Unclear communication.
Do you get annoyed with the way people in the corporate world communicate? We sure do. Long-winded emails filled with buzzwords and industry speak make it nearly impossible to understand what people are trying to say. Worse even, I sometimes think that people have no idea what they’re saying themselves. Because of this, we try to avoid email for our daily communications whenever we can.
There are so many great communication tools like Slack and Hipchat that there’s no point to using email anymore. With these tools, you can communicate immediately within certain groups, track your communications, search your messages quickly, and more. But it’s the nature of communication that’s the real problem, and not the tool.
Always be aware of what you’re trying to accomplish in your communication. Are you communicating with the hopes of gaining knowledge about a task? If so, perhaps something like Basecamp will help you sort through your to-do list. Are you updating your internal team about a customer’s status in the buying cycle? Then maybe your team needs to adopt a simple, zero-input CRM like ProsperWorks to keep your customer’s actions in order.
As a company that telecommutes, we’re able to efficiently communicate by choosing the right tools for the right job, but the key is that we always focus our communication on something distinct and real: a task, process, or update, for example. We don’t have brainstorming sessions via email or chatter back and forth about half-baked ideas.
2. Bad breaks that don’t rejuvenate.
Quantitatively, in terms of hours worked in the day, breaks don’t make sense. But realistically, in terms of completing the most high-quality work, breaks do help. Our own experience tells us that, but so do studies. According to the Harvard Business Review, “studies show we have a limited capacity for concentrating over extended time periods,” meaning that in order to be at peak concentration performance, we should take breaks. And although we may not realize it when we’re burnt out, our work likely will suffer.
But it isn’t helpful just to take any kind of breaks. Taking the wrong kind of break will drain you. Don’t use your break time to send snapchats or catch up on daytime TV. Instead, find a way to take a rest from stimulation and let your brain relax. That said, some of our team members take breaks to hit the gym or go for a run. There’s evidence to show that that taking breaks to perform physical activity will make you a more intelligent, productive worker.
3. Awful in-person meetings
Everyone knows that meetings are some of the most inefficient practices in business today. There are even whole TED talks devoted to the subject. I’ve had plenty of meetings in-person, and from this experience, I have realized that in-person meetings tend to be even worse that remote meetings.
There’s the obvious waste of time that you spend traveling to in-person meetings, plus in-person meetings also tend to be more distracting and less focused. Remote meetings are better. A) because they are less distracting B) because sharing is built in and C) because they enable a level playing field.
I’ve been in dozens of in-person meetings where something the team leader says ignites a side conversation, which may or may not be productive. But in an in-person meeting this side conversation is distracting. In a remote meeting, users can chat in the side chatbox or message one another personally, so that they can come to insightful conclusions without dragging anyone else into the conversation.
I’ve also attended a handful of meetings where sharing became a drawn-out technical problem. Sharing is so easy in remote meetings. And then there are some in-person meetings that have a single leader who loves the sound of their and does not account for anyone else. With no “head of the table”, real teamwork has fewer barriers in remote meetings.
At SUMO, our agendas feature only the issues we need to discuss, and we do not waste time “ideating”. Once we complete a task, we remove it from our agendas. Meetings exist to receive updates, answer questions, and get on the same page, not to “collaborate” on work. We don’t waste time trying to collaborate in meetings. That’s like having too many cooks in the kitchen.
By understanding these inefficient business practices, you can begin working more efficiently and effectively -- and there is a difference between effective and efficient -- but that’s for another time.