All companies produce something, because all companies need to sell products or services to make money. Whether you’re selling flashlights, legal advice or clean windows, your product is the lifeblood of your company.

Everyone who sells something must confront the difficult question of “worth.” It’s up to us to decide what to charge for our product, and precisely how much we need to put into that product to get the desired and necessary price. If we don’t put enough into it, our customers may not think it’s worth it. If we put too much into it, we risk spending money on the product on details that customers aren’t willing to pay for.

This is the waste of over-processing.

Polishing the Cannonballs

Bob firing off non-polished cannonballs at the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

Bob firing off non-polished cannonballs at the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

People who manage and operate businesses are usually passionate about what they do.

They’re often entrepreneurs and usually get to where they are from the strength of their ideas and commitment. When we’re passionate about our product, over-processing comes pretty naturally.
Picture the product created by your company, whether it’s tax returns, a restaurant entree or an engine, one that you’re most passionate about. Are you putting only as much into this product as the customer thinks it’s worth, or more? Over-processing can be as simple as applying unnecessary aesthetic touches or researching 5 examples for a customer when all they needed was 3.

It can be hard to pinpoint over processing because your average customer won’t tell you that the product is better than their perceived value. But if you ask your customers what they like best about the product, and listen carefully to what they say, you’ll hear that the one characteristic they don’t mention may be the over-processing.

As we sell more and more of a product, over-processing can easily become engrained into processes and hard to eliminate or even identify. Ask someone whom you trust, who represents your target client, and who has little or no history with your product to tell you what they think it’s worth and why.

Document your current Process – Then Plan Ahead

Whether it’s a new or an established product or service, map out your processes for making it.

A process map can be as simple as listed steps on paper or as complicated as establishing a flow chart or a full value-stream that involves all aspects of production. If you’re new to this concept: start small.

Grab a pen and notepad and start jotting down steps as you recall them.
Once you’ve mapped out every step you can think of, take a break. Do not come back to your list for at least a day. When you look at it again it needs to be with objective eyes. Update the list with the steps and procedures that may not of thought of on your attempt. NOW look for the WASTE! Identifying waste may involve targeting a part of the process that you’re passionate about. Remember waste is anything that is a duplication of effort or is something that your customer is not willing to pay for.

Passion is admirable, but in business it needs to be tempered with rationality.