Thursday, April 9, 2015

Focus on Outputs, Not Inputs

If you want to simplify and streamline your business processes, then you need to focus on outputs.

Take each function or task and consider it a black box.  A black box abstracts a task by representing it by a box that has inputs and outputs.  Somehow the contents of the box transforms the inputs into the outputs.

The black box concept is valuable because it puts the emphasis where it belongs: on creating the outcomes.  The steps / processes inside the box are a "necessary evil", and need to be reduced as much as possible, while still accomplishing your goals.

So, things like meetings, reports, processes, and procedures are all "inside the box" elements that have no importance in themselves.

For example, an output might be to name a new product.  If you can decide the name through a couple of emails back and forth between a few key individuals, then great!  You're done.  You don't need to gather everyone into a series of hour long meetings and create a 30 page report.

This is the opposite of the way bureaucracies think.

In a bureaucracy, the workers feel more comfortable with the meetings and long report.  It makes them look busy and provides cover, since they fear to make actual decisions.
Bureaucracies focus on the inside of the box.  The processes become more important than the outputs.