This is the starting point of the productivity journey. It’s not ideal, but it does the job. Chances are that you know you can do more, deliver more value to your customers, make your people more effective or use your software better.
The hard part is working out what ‘better’ looks like and how to get there. The trick is to never get complacent with where you are now, just ask 'what is the next small step I can take?'.
The following will discuss the typical characteristics of a Phase One business. Some of these may still apply to you, or ring true as troubles that you have already resolved.
Phase One isn’t all bad. A business that can’t get to this stage is unlikely to be in business for long. Some processes or methods are in place and they are good enough to get the job done. Work is completed and delivered to the customers as promised most of the time. Quality and lead-time are good enough to keep enough customers coming back, although it’s unlikely they are paying a premium.
There is usually a software system in place to help manage and complete work but it doesn’t get used as much as it should. There is always an intention to do more with it, but it’s hard to know where to start or to find the time, so everyone tends to fall back on what has always worked.
Most work is still done on paper, with a folder for each job. Every piece of information for a job gets printed, maybe even the same sheet multiple times. Some days, people spend more time walking to and from the printer than working on the job.
Desks are often piled high with folders full of paper. It looks like a real mess but there is some order to the way things are. There are usually trays or racks or some other way of sorting all the folders, making it possible to distinguish priorities and find what’s needed with a moderate amount of searching.
Overall, it’s far from efficient. A lot of time is wasted organising, checking, and searching through folders. Handovers to the next department are slow and manual. It usually requires someone to carry a stack of folders across the office, so naturally it doesn’t occur as much as it should, meaning delays in potentially urgent jobs. But it’s hard to see what’s truly important amongst the towers of paper. It also means only one person can be responsible for the job at any one time. It’s hard for the next person to get a head start, most of the time they have no idea what’s coming their way and then get dumped with 4hrs of work, 30 mins from home time.
When someone tries to cover a sick day or holiday, they must try to navigate the folder fortress building up. They do their best to understand the organisational ‘method’ but it differs so much desk-to-desk that they are doomed to fail. It’s not that uncommon to be dealing with an angry customer or covering a storage charge because someone ‘lost’ a folder, maybe it fell behind a desk or maybe they just forgot it was under their keyboard.
EXAMPLES OF PHASE ONE:
- Printing out a page, filling in a couple of details, and then scanning it so it can be emailed.
- Having a spare desk that is used as additional storage for in-progress jobs because no one has space on their own desks.
- When a customer calls about their job, it requires a trip around the office to locate the folder and information
NEGATIVES OF STAYING IN THIS PHASE LONG TERM
- Poor productivity
- Poor visibility of job progress and workloads
- Management frustration
- Problems are easily missed and jobs occasionally lost/forgotten about
- Excessive printing costs