67 Make process simple!

Creative Gorilla #67

By reducing a process to its fewest steps, keeping it simple, you can reap a number of benefits…

 “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
Albert Einstein

Keep process simple


Are your processes simple?

Here’s a good news story. My paper shredder broke down. The motor ran but the paper didn’t shred and I delayed calling the manufacturer for a while because I have had some bad experiences with equipment service organisations and didn’t want hassle.

I anticipated the usual array of excuses why they couldn’t do anything: I must have pushed a sheet of aluminium through the shredder; the shredder only shreds papyrus made by Ancient Egyptians; the warranty is only valid in the grouse shooting season etc. So I procrastinated and eventually my wife telephoned.

So where is the good news? “No problem”, the manufacturer said. “We’ll send you a new one,” which they did. And the old one? “Throw it away.”  So we kept the bin and recycled the rest.

“That is so unfair,” I thought, “why was I not the recipient of that great piece of customer service? And why do other companies not do this?”  That set me thinking about the benefits to them. These include:

  • They have a raving fan who is writing about them (the manufacturer is Fellowes) which should improve sales
  • They probably have low turnover of customer service staff as they deal with delighted customers not grumpy people
  • Repeat calls will be fewer so they need fewer staff
  • Supervisors and senior managers are not dragged in to a dispute
  • They know exactly how much the problem has cost them (a new machine, sales processing and delivery costs). They can measure it easily and know the true cost of quality


Some of you might be thinking “Ah, but customers will abuse it”. True but should we set up labyrinthine processes to deal with exceptions? In my view, Fellowes have used a good piece of flexible thinking. That is, they looked at the process of after sales support and found a solution that reduced it to three steps (take call, place new sales order, distribute). This simplicity is the key to reducing costs and improving customer satisfaction.


If you have a complex process, how might you innovate and reduce it to the minimum of steps? Perhaps you can’t replace equipment and throw away the old, but where are you adding unnecessary and expensive bureaucracy and staff? Is it possible for you to test a revised process to see if it has all those “nightmare repercussions?”

To close

It’s pure coincidence but in the middle of writing this article, my neighbour knocked on my door to tell me that our willow tree had dropped a huge branch in the night, destroying his fence and damaging the garage of another neighbour.

My wife telephoned the insurance company and they explained we couldn’t claim but our two neighbours had to claim and their companies would claim off ours. One tree, two neighbours, three insurers and a sea of correspondence. How complex is that?

I have considered calling the tree manufacturer for assistance, but the hotline is down and the tree is probably out of warranty anyway.

Have a good news week. …

John Brooker I Facilitate, Innovate, Transform.

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