As a part of my responsibilities in managing things the word “optimization” doesn’t come up often enough. Not a single business is against growth. Almost every one of them has a fear of optimization. Optimization is disrupting, hard and rarely bring shiny new stuff into the house. Instead, it’s like refitting your Ford Pinto with 2012 Mustang’s engine. Still looks like Pinto, only doesn’t go BOOM anymore.
The word itself has got a bit of a bad rap to it, usually meaning drastic cost cutting measures, layoffs and other ugly things introduced by “effective managers” (or “effing managers” for short). The real optimization rarely has that ugliness to it- going back to the previous example it is like putting s new engine in an older car.
The truth is, of course, that optimization is necessary – what got you to your current level isn’t necessary good enough to get you to the next. You realize that you hit the ceiling, reached the threshold, filled to the capacity. You need to break out of the box, shift the paradigm or in other words – you’re gonna need a bigger boat.
That’s where the real optimization come in. And – it’s late to the party. Optimizing when you already are stranded, short on time and resources is like trying to load up on already overloaded truck hoping that once you make that one critical trip everything is going to get easier. History and experience shows that it won’t. That’s why you need to start optimizing before the need arises. If you think you need it today – you’re late already.
A lot of companies decide to start small – it is a matter of startup capital, of course. But when planning their growth they often put unrealistic goals in order to account for it, while in the real life by the time they reach the threshold they optimize and they do it in the time that is least suitable for it. Instead of concentrating on growing the business they go back to the drawing board.
Your optimization should start before you need it. Ideally, you can start a process of ongoing optimization, an iterative process that runs in parallel with everything you do. As an example – every month you review your sales revisit your processes (at least some of them) and see how they can be improved to free up resources – get more sales, serve more customers, ship product earlier.
It should start yesterday.