Does your business have written documentation of its processes or are they all stuck in someones head? Processes are critical in order for a business to function on a daily basis. When most businesses are started, the processes are built organically by what the owner wants instead of what the business needs.
What is a business process?
“A business process or business method is a collection of related, structured activities or tasks by people or equipment which, in a specific sequence, produces a service or product (serves a particular business goal) for a particular customer or customers.”
Why are processes so important?
They manage chaos – Without process, everyday feels like you are fighting fires. You are being managed by exceptions rather than managing the exceptions.
They are the framework of your business – Houses built without a proper foundation or framing are just a pile of sticks that could collapse at any moment. The same could be said for your business. Having processes in place to manage daily and weekly items keeps a framework and structure in place.
They provide accountability for employees – Just because you have a Lead Technician, it doesn’t mean they know exactly what they are accountable for. When you have clear processes in place, it helps keep your employees accountable because now they know what’s expected of them.
They assign responsibilities and remove bottlenecks – A process written out clearly assigns who is responsible for which steps and what tasks. Is there something that’s not getting done at the end of every project? Is someone responsible for that or is left up to whoever is available to complete it? Lack of responsibility leads to bottlenecks.
They are vital for sustainability and growth – All businesses go through a growth phase but at some point they plateau. Some owners are able to push through the friction to continue to grow but that can lead to employee turnover. When this happens, some owners “scale back” to the better days so their business is more manageable. All of this happens due to a lack of processes. If you want your business to be sustainable and less stressful or you are looking for growth, processes are the foundation.
When you have clear processes in place, your business becomes more predictable, productive and efficient. Your business becomes more transparent which leads to higher employee satisfaction and ultimately higher profitability.
Once you’ve created your processes, it’s time to visually document them. This can be accomplished a few different ways but ultimately should tie in with what your goal for documentation is and how it will be used.
Why is visual process documentation important?
Visual process documentation can help put your team in sync, help maintain operational consistency, preserves company knowledge, and adds value to your business.
Imagine buying a franchise like a Subway but not getting any sort of manual on how to run it?
Visually see how a process is completed from start to finish – Most owners and employees have all of the information stuck in their head. How they think it gets done isn’t exactly how it gets done. When you get your process visually documented, you can see how it all works. Most people are visual learners so this method ensures that everyone understands the process.
Help with increasing efficiencies and remove waste from a process – Once you’re able to see your workflow, it’s easy to see how the steps can be designed and arranged differently in order to improve efficiencies and remove waste.
Implement automation with software – Now that you can visually see how work gets done, you can identify which tasks can be managed by software and where you can add notifications for hand offs between departments.
Ops manual for employee training – Instead of having employees “job shadow” another employee for weeks at a time, now you have a manual that they can go through to get them up to speed faster and cut down on more time spent “job shadowing”.
Ensure you and your team are meeting and exceeding clients’ expectations – If you find that clients aren’t satisfied at the end of a project, what is it that’s causing this? If there is a clear documented process on how to close out a project, it ensures that everything was done in order to exceed the clients’ expectations.
How can I get started?
Process creation and documentation is an important next step for any small business that has a lot of benefits. It can be a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be. Start with areas of the business where there are breakdowns and start out with 1-5 areas to focus on. A simple one page document which states the process for a given task is better than not having anything at all. You can always go back to the document and go deeper to add more details once you have a solid foundation.
Using the five steps below, you can get a quick start to the process and can always revisit the document later to add more detail. This exercise alone will help get your team on the path to working more insync.
- Identify the core areas of your business that need a defined process (Ex. Invoicing Clients, Project Engineering, Production Phases).
- Pick one to start with and meet with everyone who is involved with the process.
- Identify the inputs (items required for the process to work).
- Identify the steps from start to finish.
- Identify the outputs (defined standards of completion).