Business

How to Use Design Principles to Streamline Your Business



Have you ever had the experience where somebody forwards you an email thread and you have to read through fourteen different conversations to find the action items? You basically have to become an investigative journalist trying to piece together who said what, who was this again…and by the end of the email you find yourself frustrated with the entire experience. That’s an example of bad design. And as a business owner, there are lots of things in your day to day that likely suffer from similar design flaws. So today, I want to share some examples of how you can use design principles to streamline your business and help your team become more productive and more focused on results. 

A Better Way Of Doing Things

Taking the example of the email chain that never ends, I decided to design a better way of handling such emails. Our team has a 1,2,3 system of dealing with emails. By putting a number 1 in the subject line I know that it needs my attention and there is something in there that I need to act on.  A 2 means there’s action you need to take in a reasonable period of time.  Depending on your organization, a reasonable period of time might be by end of day, by the next morning. And then a 3 means FYI only. And this system has saved my team from having to weed through fourteen conversation deep emails, if there isn’t anything actionable within. Will this solution work for everyone? Maybe not. In which case, I would encourage you to design a system that does work for your business, your team and the problem at hand. 

Standardization

Another place I have seen design thinking is when it comes to standardization. We can standardize how we do certain things to make our lives easier.  For example, let’s say that you want to standardize a shipping list for what you need to bring to a workshop.  Maybe it started with one pallet, the next year it was two and then three. It keeps growing. Next year, there will be four pallets. But with design thinking, you can streamline your process and pack lighter by creating a checklist that you use each and every time.  By standardizing it, it reduces the chances of missing things, and makes it easier the next time around. You can use the same principles when it comes to reporting. If you do a report every week or every month, and it looks the same month over month, it is easy to see changes and notice patterns, therefore making it easier for your team to make decisions on how to move forward. 

Less Is More

And the final way that you can use design thinking is to use the principle of “less is more.” Just because you can make a spreadsheet reporting on a hundred different KPI’s doesn’t mean that you should do it. Choose the things in your business that make the most sense, and can be used to build value in your business and leave the rest. If you must track those hundred things, automate and review it on occasion, but keep the big picture, simple dashboard for higher level learnings. 

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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