Broken Processes

9 Signs your Business Processes are Broken

Your business processes are an essential part of your day-to-day operations, but how do you know if they’re broken? Do you wait until you notice a drastic decrease in sales, customers or even staff satisfaction?  Do your customers often complain about how long it takes for their order to be fulfilled?  Does your team regularly miss important deadlines due to lack of communication? 

Managers can see opportunities to improve employee productivity, retention, and, ultimately, the bottom line by understanding where the breakdown in process occurs.  Here are nine common signs that your business processes may be broken, so you can take action now and keep your business lean, efficient and successful in the future.

Same Problems

Missed KPIs, inefficiencies, bottlenecks, complaints from customers and workers are all signs of broken processes. Your staff may also feel as though they are putting in more effort than ever to do a simple task.  You can’t quite put your finger on what’s going wrong, but you know something is.  Do any of the following issues sound familiar?

Inadequate Training

If your employees don’t understand their roles in relation to other parts of your organisation, they’ll struggle to make good decisions or take appropriate action when needed. They may also make mistakes because they don’t fully understand how different systems interact with each other. Furthermore, a lack of training and development may cause employees to feel disengaged from their jobs.  This in turn can negatively impact morale if they feel like they’re not doing a good job or have no idea what success looks like for them.

Frustrated employee at desk

Duplication of Work

Do you have multiple record-keeping systems in your business?  Do your staff manually enter your customer’s information into a CRM, an accounting system and a delivery system?  What if your customer’s information changes?  Do they also have to manually update each of those systems?   This duplication of work carries a high probability of failure.  Inevitably, errors and inconsistencies will occur. 

These can include typos in letters, incorrect address details, incorrect specifications, incorrect orders, pricing, and so on. The consequences can be far more expensive than the cost of correcting your processes. The issue arises when attempting to pinpoint the source of the errors. And it’s all too easy to jump to the wrong conclusion here. In reality, it is frequently the result of a number of different factors.

Systems Failure

Implementing an effective IT system has been a major issue for many businesses.  Because of a lack in investment in IT and digital transformation before Covid, this problem was exacerbated over the last 2 years.

If your staff members can’t easily access information, it makes it harder for them to get things done quickly and efficiently.  Ultimately this can lead to mistakes, delays, frustration, wasted time and money, and lost sales.

Over-Reliance on Physical Documents

The COVID-19 pandemic created a “perfect storm” for businesses all over the world. Outdated, manual, paper-based processes that have struggled to function for remote and dispersed workforces have stretched some businesses thin.  

Anything that is a series of papers needed to be signed by multiple people, moved between departments, and tracked through an intricate filing system will eventually fail. Any process that relies on physical documentation has a limit on its scalability. The more users or locations it is used in, the harder it will be to ensure everything is up-to-date and accurate.

Too many files

Inefficient Office Layout

If you feel like your team is stretched too thin and customer service levels have suffered, that’s a red flag. While it’s not easy or cheap to reorganise, analysing how workers use space can often uncover better ways of handling tasks—or at least providing a framework for moving forward.

For example, if a particular task is isolated from other operations, find out why and consider reconfiguring workstations. If members of staff aren’t using their time efficiently due to awkward workflow issues or outdated equipment, you may need larger changes in office layout or equipment purchases. However you proceed, be sure everyone has a voice in deciding what needs to be done so they will buy into any changes you decide on making. You don’t want employees to feel as though they were simply moved around without consideration of their preferences. Your goal should be to improve productivity by improving workflow efficiency, rather than just cutting costs by reducing headcount.

Disorganised Workplace

A disorganised workplace doesn’t just look unprofessional—it can take a serious toll on employee safety and morale. When files and workspaces get disorganised, it causes an air of panic in employees because they never know what they’re going to be missing or misplacing. This can cause unnecessary stress as employees scramble to find important information or locate what is needed for a project at hand. Using 5S to organise work areas should be one of your highest priorities, and it’s particularly important if you have a team member working from home.

Having a designated space for all company materials will eliminate stress among employees and create efficiency within their workflow. In addition to saving time and frustration, these systems also send a message that management values organisation. An organised workspace is more than simply looking good; it creates confidence among employees that their employer cares about more than just appearances.

Irrelevant Tracking Metrics

Tracking time, expenses, and other things that don’t matter to you or anyone else in your organisation is a waste of everyone’s time. We’ve all done it: work on something for a while, get frustrated with no progress, look at stats and realise we forgot to track something.  At some point though, all of those tracking metrics need to be pruned back because they no longer serve any purpose. If you can’t easily explain why you’re tracking something then it should go. This requires more discipline than most people have but it’s an important part of successful process improvement.

Unhappy Customers

When customers complain, listen. While it’s tempting to point out that they didn’t read your T&C’s or quote properly, or you clearly stated that their contract was non-refundable, keep in mind that many of these people will become valuable advocates for your business if handled correctly. Take a look at what you can do better and try to turn those complaints into opportunities for improvement.  The more information you have about why your customers are not happy with your product or service, the easier it is to find ways to make them happier.


Broken processes are costing you money. There’s no getting around it.  It only takes one small problem to undermine a whole system. If you notice one warning sign, that’s still worth paying attention.  The fact is that even small issues can lead to big problems in terms of wasted time and missed opportunities.

At LeanTeams, we can advise you on how to make your business processes work across all operations and assist you in developing the roadmaps necessary for success.  If you need help fixing your broken processes or would like an in-depth analysis of Lean in your organisation, contact us for a free consultation.

You may also be interested in reading about How to manage rising costs in a turbulent business environment and How to avoid the 10 Biggest Lean Pitfalls.  All our blogs are available to read here.  Please connect with us on Linkedin and Twitter.

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