Going Slower Before Automation Begins

Go! Slow Down! Stop!
Slowing down can help you get clearer. From Flickr photostream of Discoe.

With all the nifty tools around it is tempting to try to get to the end of a problem quickly. A new business process can simply be automated with a piece of software. Setting up a whole system for marketing may look like an attractive first step.

However, what if you’re wrong? What if the assumptions you make about how your team will use the tools or your customers will engage your company are misguided?

Automation should be a later step. Testing is a good first step. Testing  is necessary because there is too much uncertainty. You have to peg the unknowns and understand what is required before investing time into fully standardizing how you are going to do something. It means going slower at first in order to get to the predictability you desire later. Here is what going slower first looks like:

  • Work on a small scale. Pick a small subset of people to work with. Ensure they are more optimistic than the average person. You need their feedback and desire to help you make things work. Their engagement becomes feedback which you can integrate.
  • Use manual steps. Design a small set of steps that your team can use. Then ensure they are clear about what they need to do. Provide a way for them to get the tasks done and track them.
  • Measure and solicit feedback. As your team is working, they are getting feedback on the aspects of the process. A step may not work well or the hand off between steps can be off. Interview them. Watch them do the work.
  • Refine and refine again. With your feedback, continually change as the emerging facts demand. Keep going until you land on the steps which make sense.
  • Integrate. See how the work can be automated and integrate pieces to see how they fare. This will provide insight into how each task can be a bit more efficient.

At some point, it makes sense to automate everything. Do this when all the pieces line up. Train your team on their role in an automated system.

Using this approach, you have tested your assumptions and how they work in reality and reduced uncertainty along the way. Being manual, though painful, saves you from the pain of going too fast and overengineering a system that is not a fit.

What part of your business can benefit from this approach?

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