If you want to be tied to your desk, be forced to solve every problem yourself, never enjoy a day off and worry constantly about whether or not work is done the way you want it done, ignore this week’s One Year, Thirty Minute Challenge.
Creating processes is the key to delivering a great customer experience, ensuring quality, scaling your business, decreasing mistakes and defects, empowering employees and increasing velocity.
New business owners struggle with early hires. To the detriment of the organization, they often hire people “just like them” so they can feel confident that the work will be done just like they would do it. The better alternative is to create detailed processes for everything so that every new hire, as they follow the processes, can do the work just as the founder intended. Then, as new talent is added to the organization, those with different skill sets, personalities and gifts can add new strength to the organization and bring increased clarity and refinement to the processes.
Let’s quickly clarify the distinction between processes and policies. Processes are for those tasks where there is no wiggle room – the way we mass-produce widgets, the way we pay a vendor invoice, the way we complete new employee documentation. Policies are for those tasks where there might be some gray areas – when do we give a refund, when do we allow a reservation to be cancelled without a cancellation fee, how many bereavement days do we allow when an employee’s family member dies. Processes are like railroad tracks – you can’t veer at all from the track without negative consequences. Policies are like guardrails – if you drive anywhere between them, you’re safe. With processes, follow the letter of the law. With policies, follow the spirit of the law.
Back to this week’s challenge. In thirty minutes, you won’t be able document all the vital processes in your organization. So, in this week’s challenge, we want to construct the framework that you’re going to use to create your process documentation. For processes to be most effective, they must be complete and have sufficient granularity for those who have to follow them.
Here are some suggestions for putting your process documentation together –
- Why does this process exist? What is the endgame? Is it part of a larger task (for example, if this is the process for invoicing a customer, how and where does it fit in the larger task of obtaining, processing, and filling a customer order)?
- Who is responsible for this task? Who is the backup person if the primary person is unavailable?
- What is the requisite knowledge for this task? What is the requisite experience for this task? Where can that knowledge and experience be obtained.
- If the person responsible for this task has a problem or question, who do they ask?
- What resources are required for the task? If software is required for the task, who adds new users or assigns privileges? If there’s a software problem, how do you get technical support? If equipment is required, where is it located? Who provides support if the equipment breaks down? If materials are required, where are those materials stored? What vendors supply those materials? What is the process for reordering those materials?
- What are the steps in the process itself? Describe the steps in detail, including why that step is done? As you’re documenting the steps, be especially sensitive to the things that are done by instinct or that “everyone knows”. Make sure that even the most intuitive, well-know and obvious things are included in the documentation. For example, if the last step is to drop something in the mail slot, spell out the location of the mail slot.
- Who is notified when the process is completed? How are they notified (even if they are notified automatically via software)? What do those people do with the notification after they have received it?
- How is completion of the process measured? Are the number of widgets manufactured counted? Is the insurance claim reviewed for accuracy? If so, who is responsible for the tracking or auditing the process? How do they give feedback or scoring to the person or people who did the work?
- How is the person executing the process invited into the improvement of the process? How can they question the process or recommend changes?
- Where is the most updated copy of the process stored (paper, shared drive, collaboration software (Slack, Microsoft Teams, Basecamp, etc)? How are any “remote” copies of the process updated when changes to the process are made? How are changes to the process rolled out? What is the training mechanism? (demonstration, checklist, class, video, podcast, collaboration software)
Use these suggestions, then add and customize to create your own framework for documenting processes. Then, beginning with the most critical value creation activities, work your way through all the processes in your organization.
When you’re finished, the goal is to create a “company in a box”. That is, if someone with the requisite knowledge and experience picked up your process documentation, they should be able to carry out all the core value creation activities in the company. And, perform the work just the way the founder intended (with the modifications and enhancements made by other smart staff members along the way).