McDonalds. Ford Motor Company. Legos. Each one a giant in their respective industries. No one will ever argue with you that a Big Mac, Mustang, or a Lego playset exist as the greatest product in their class. There are certainly better burgers, faster cars, or toys that don’t hurt like crazy when accidently stepped on… late at night when you’re trying to go up to bed, but your five year old decided to leave you a few errant pieces in the living room. But I digress.
What makes those three aforementioned companies giants, is a commitment to process over product. Because of it? They each are stalwarts in their industries. There’s much to be learned by their commitment to the conceit.
Read up on the history of McDonalds or Ford, and you’ll see a striking similarity – to the adoption and mastery of the assembly line. Their commitment to streamline process ultimately produced what their consumers wanted most; a predictable end-product that was consistently delivered, meeting the expectations desired when purchasing. That is, of course, a belabored way of saying “you got what you expected. Nothing more, but especially, nothing less.” For a consumer-grade lunch, or a serviceable vehicle aimed at the middle class? Consistency, expediency, and value are lauded over uniqueness, craft, or aesthetics. In short: for Ford or McDonalds, the means justify the ends.
For Legos, the process was the actual product. While many of their toy sets today come equipped with specialty figures, and pieces… the majority of what the company specifically produces are just simple building blocks. Sets are sold to children with expansive instructions allowing them to create any number of buildings, vehicles, or role-playing scenarios. But the real fun of the toy? Well, as the Lego Movie so keenly advertised (all while minting massive cross-promotional profits): making your own creations with your Legos is the real intent. The process of building, deconstructing, and building again is what you’re buying… not just another variation of the Batmobile.
So where does this lesson apply to your business? Well, in order to figure that out, once again, you have homework to complete!
At the bottom of a sheet of paper, write out what you sell. What is the end product that ultimately ends up in your customer’s hands. Be it a widget or a service… capture it. Now, directly above it, write out every step that it takes to make this thing. Continue to list these steps until you’ve reached the top of your page – where hopefully you have the very first step to creating what you sell.
It’s hard to see the forest for the trees, and as such, perhaps you’ve been mired in the minutiae of seeing your product reach the customer. “It doesn’t matter how the sausage is made”, one might protest… but as I’d denoted above: how that sausage is made is actually the most important part of all.
All I’m asking of you today is to look over a single step in your process. Now, look at it and ask yourself: What can I do to improve this step? You’ll likely want to work hand-in-hand with the people who complete the task. Have them outline the steps they take, and then ask them how they might either complete the same step faster, or produce better results. For many familiar with Six Sigma or the variations on it out there: this is the core of Robust Process Improvement. Simply put, when a process is improved, it ultimately helps push your bottom line. Products are made faster and wind up of a higher quality. When a process is perfected, it allows you to focus efforts where they are most needed – be it in market research, product development… or even just more process improvement!
The best in business adhere to this mantra; to ensure that every resource is working to the advantage of the end-product. Simply put: processes can always be improved – through cost savings, automation, quality assurance and review, or yes, even to outsourcing to stronger providers. It all boils down to the space between those steps. Find those spaces and eliminate them.
Your first step to improving the process? It starts the second you stop reading this article!
Marc Fishman is proud to be DreamCSX’s Marketing Dreamer.