How to Remove Roadblocks and Simplify Complex Processes


Building a car is a challenging task. Inefficiencies on the assembly line slow production and increase costs. In the 1980s, Toyota executive Taiichi Ohno created a streamlining technique known as the Gemba walk. In this practice, managers walk the assembly line looking for steps that waste time or materials. They might also interview workers at each station to find improvements.

The Gemba walk is not a one-time activity. Changes to the assembly process may have unexpected consequences. Managers should regularly make the walk to look for new ways to save time and effort. As Ohno put it, “Re-improve what was improved for further improvement.”

What Are Roadblocks, and Why Do They Matter?

Whether it is manufacturing or another complex process in your business, roadblocks in the process will slow things down. A roadblock is an issue that delays or stops progress. Failing to integrate a new software program into your system can lead to time wasted with manual entry. A lack of adequate training can slow down the adoption of new equipment. An unclear accountability structure requires employees to send superfluous notifications. These roadblocks often stay in place because no one takes the time to look critically at the process.

Improving a complex process brings positive results to your team. Inefficiency can be a hard blow to employee morale. Even though they may be getting paid for the effort, no one wants to feel like they are wasting their time. When you streamline processes and establish clear goals, your team members find purpose in their work.

An efficient process is right for your bottom line. When you and your staff spend less time on unnecessary efforts, it lowers production costs and gives you more time for innovation. In manufacturing, a well-crafted process decreases the cost of production and offers consistent results.

A Growth-Centered Mindset

Embracing efficiency may require a change in the cultural mindset of your workplace. Many people enter the workforce with a fixed mindset. They assume there is a single right way to do things. If it reaches the goal, there is no reason to change it. When working on projects, these individuals will spend most of their time avoiding failure rather than learning from mistakes.

A flexible mindset allows for enhanced growth. This type of thinking recognizes that there may be several paths to reach a goal. Rather than perfecting a single process, a growth-centered style of development involves more brainstorming, experimentation, and analysis.

How to Streamline Complex Processes

“If you can’t explain it to a 6-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

 — Albert Einstein

Identifying and removing roadblocks takes effort. This work is not something that will happen through a single brainstorming session. Instead, you are looking to change the way your team thinks about workflow and efficiency.

Establish Benchmarks

It is much easier for people to work toward a goal. Rather than talking in general terms about making a process faster, you might want to introduce the idea of shaving a minute off the production time. An achievable goal will get people thinking about actionable steps.

Break Down Complex Processes

Every complex process involves multiple steps, and each stage requires a series of actions. When you are trying to simplify a process, move from the big picture to the specific. See if there are steps where a great deal of time gets lost. Then, focus on improving the steps within those steps.

Explore Multiple Pathways

When looking at a complicated process, it can be helpful to take a blank-slate approach. Knowing the goal you have in mind, let your team members imagine creative ways to get there. By questioning the assumption that your current process is the right one, you may be surprised at the inventive results.

Incentivize Innovation

Offering a bonus for creative streamlining ideas will keep your team members on constant watch for improvements. Rewarding new ideas will inspire a culture of creative problem-solving.

Make Process Streamlining an Ongoing Priority

Organizations devoted to simplifying processes recognize that there are many factors at play. When a new staff member comes on board, it can change the entire system. As new technologies emerge, and inspired team members may discover a creative application that makes things easier. Taking a flexible approach to workflow allows for continued innovation. A creative approach to removing roadblocks and simplifying processes can take your organization in new directions. If you need help on this journey, I would love to work with you, so reach out to me today.