Do we have to write this stuff?
Writing out procedures and processes very rarely get the specific qualified attention they deserve. They tend to be the afterthought in a business or if somebody has some time to spare. After all, it’s not just the time it takes to get them all written and agreed, but also the time it takes to ensure they are up-to-date and remain relevant to the business.
Using standard processes & procedures does create more structure in a business although potentially it may not be useful for all businesses in all areas. Even the most creative businesses should have processes for dealing with customer enquiries and how to handle the finance site of the business. The creative nature of the business will depend on the client activity, although things like signs offs could be covered. If there are work processes that can be duplicated each day in the business, then they are the ones that are worth documenting for others to do.
Good processes & procedures therefore provide a way to communicate and apply consistent standards and practices within the business. When flowcharts are included, they provide a visual element to learning and understanding the task at hand. People don’t have to necessarily ask how you want things done, as it is all there documented for them. Through standard routines, there is more predictability in the job and can help develop the processes then things need to change.
The procedure will define things like what activities are to be done, who performs them, what is the purpose, how it is performed and then who is responsible for the procedure. Once worked through, it provides an efficient way of performing the task and in a consistent way.
Somebody once said to me “do what I tell you, now what I do” which does not help, so a reinterpretation of that is “write what you do then do what is written down”.
Good procedures & processes therefore:
- Save time and hopefully eliminate mistakes;
- Aid efficiency as the process has been worked out and the best way found;
- Offers transparency in a process;
- Gives clarity in the work that needs to be performed;
- Reduce training time and costs;
- Empower the people performing the tasks;
- Ensure consistency in results;
- Get used, read and updated;
- Support any quality goals the business has.
However, on the converse, bad processes and procedures can be as disastrous as having no procedure as all. These bad ones are the ones that are remembered and then give all procedures a bad name. These will be the ones that are badly written, hard to understand and tend to be found hidden in a cupboard somewhere or stored on a computer drive that nobody looks at. So bad procedures:
- Cause error and frustration;
- Waste time and money;
- Hinder training so often faced with increased training costs;
- Are rarely updated
- Don’t get used or read.
One major benefit of good procedures and processes is in the area of business growth. If your current systems work, processes followed and all tickety-boo, then rolling this out across different locations when expanding or purchasing other businesses should be a piece of cake. The processes should be easy to replicate and understand, so all you need to do is work out what stays centrally, what goes locally, and then deal with the culture change.
Still think that process, procedure and systems are a waste of time?
You may feel that it is much more productive to call on customers, get on with their work (as it pays the bills), attend meetings, play on Facebook (or am I the only one that does that?), write a proposal or catch up on sleep. But given the fast pace of business life nowadays for the small business, there are more and more demands on our time and resources, those that have these processes in place will thrive. Those without will just flounder as they will be disorganised, overwhelmed and not know which way to turn and may take on work that they are ill-equipped to do as they are not running efficiently or effectively.
Therefore, you cannot afford not to have business processes, procedures and systems in place. They help you keep on track, and help you automatically carry out tasks or outsource them so you can focus on the more interesting side of your business.