As a practitioner, I spend most of my time working with executives to identify, quantify and eliminate business inefficiencies. As a result, I’ve changed my views about them over the years. I no longer view inefficiencies as a bad thing. On the contrary. For me now, inefficiencies spell opportunities. Let me explain.

At some level, every business is inefficient. It is inevitable, but it is rarely by design. No one in their right mind ever starts a business with the intent to run it as inefficiently as possible. But running a business, let alone growing one, isn’t a smooth or predictable affair, and as businesses mature and grow, so does complexity. 

Even in early stages there is a need to design and implement basic processes and tools to make things happen. Every business needs to take care of some basic accounting, occasional payroll, a flood of emails, and the ubiquitous library of spreadsheets to tackle anything from estimates to purchase orders, invoices, budgets and so on. With growth however, scalability soon becomes and issue. Processes that once ran smoothly now involve multiple people, systems or locations. Every time the business needs to change, or a new contract is signed, these once efficient processes turn into complete nightmares. At worse, the aggregate effect is that the business can no longer afford to grow, or do so profitably.

But this is a good thing… Growth is not linear. It is much more like a ladder, with variable and sometimes unpredictable gaps between its rungs. People, and by extension, businesses, simply do what they need to do to cover that space, get things done and get to the next level. The climb is progressive and demands energy, investment and commitment. There comes a time when the same processes that enabled the company to clear through the last threshold are now preventing it from moving forward. This is when opportunity knocks. Inefficiencies often result from growth, or from changes to the business that simply make invalid what once was the only way to go. 

Seize that opportunity. What is slowing your business down often holds the key to what could in fact accelerate its performance. You just have to look in the right places.

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