Common Sense, Nonsense, and Everything in Between

A Rock Star Simple Way To Identify Poor Processes

At the height of their popularity, 80s hard rock band Van Halen was known for their crazy backstage antics, which included incredibly specific food requests. But one of the strangest contract stipulations may have actually had a legitimate business purpose.

According to their biography, “The most egregious rumor about the band was that its contract rider demanded a bowl of M&Ms backstage—with all the brown ones removed. There were tales of Roth walking backstage, spotting a single brown M&M, and freaking out, trashing

the dressing room. This rumor was true” (Decisive, Chip & Dan Heath).

The most egregious rumor about the band was that its contract rider demanded a bowl of M&Ms backstage—with all the brown ones removed.

Was Roth just a nut?

Probably… but his comments showed a method to his madness.

See, Van Halen was very specific about their equipment and electrical details. They had pages of documents detailing the stage specifications. The M&M bowl requirement was buried in the middle of the technical specifications.

When Roth would arrive at a new venue, he’d immediately walk backstage and glance at the M&M bowl. If he saw a brown M&M, he’d demand a line check of the entire production.

“Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error,” Roth said. “They didn’t read the contract…”

What’s Your M&M Bowl?

How does this apply to your business?

You have poor processes in your business, and they are hurting your company through lost customers, poor customer service, and inefficient work flow.

But how do you spot them?

Here are four “M&M bowl” simple signs to find the poor processes in your business.

  1. Lack of Information – In order to spot this, ask for basic information that is commonly available from HR, like time off balance. If you have to ask HR staff and wait for them to look it up and reply to you, your process is too slow, involves too many people, and is often inaccurate. There are better ways to keep track of data.
  2. Spreadsheet Overkill – When a company has many poor and unclear processes, employees want to bring order to the chaos, and that often happens through spreadsheet creation as an attempt to stay in control of the data. When you have excessive or duplicate spreadsheets, it’s your clue to simplify and clarify your process.
  3. Entrenched Processes – Ask why a process is done the way it is. If the answer is “because it’s always been that way,” or “I don’t know,” you have poor processes. If employees don’t know the objective or the problem of the process, how can they control or improve it? Today’s data management can cut turnaround times and speed process workflows. Are you taking advantage of that?
  4. Multiple Processes for the Same Task – If different people use different processes for the same task, it’s usually because there is no agreed common process or documentation to tell them what to do. They do their best to get their work done, but it’s not efficient for a company to run this way.

These four problems show that the business processes within your company have room for improvement, and here’s how to start making changes:

  • Have everyone involved in the same room,
  • Objectively define and clarify process goals,
  • Map all stakeholders and those who are accountable,
  • Use simple visual tools like Post-it Notes to map your processes,
  • Consider that every step is a waste until proven otherwise,
  • Document the new processes, run the pilot implementation, and review.

Is there any shortcut?

If you prefer a shortcut and you are in a company with tech-savvy colleagues, using a well-thought software can help you create effective and efficient business processes.

For example:

  • Use Mailchimp to have a well-designed email marketing campaign,
  • Use JIRA Software to have access to agile project management,
  • Use Sleekr to have a well-thought HR business process,
  • Use Salesforce to have access to effective CRM.

So, let’s find your brown M&M’s and start improving!

Common Sense, Nonsense, and Everything in Between