Whether you are a business owner or an employee, you likely use a number of business processes every day. This means going through the same steps for doing specific tasks (i.e. generating reports, processing invoices, communicating with new leads, etc). Business processes are designed to streamline the way you and your team work. Putting business processes in place and following a set of thought out steps is helpful when training new employees, and will also result in fewer errors, less duplicated work, and overall efficiency and satisfaction for employees and customers.
With so many tasks at hand you’ve probably also experienced the results of inefficient processes, which can wreak havoc on a business, its employees and its customers. For that reason, it is important to regularly review business processes and make improvements when they are not working well.
Follow these steps for documenting and reviewing your business processes:
1. Map the process
First you have to write everything down. Document each step of the task. A flowchart is helpful for this because it allows you to see the steps visually. It’s important think about the details of each phase and to include every sub task, even the minor ones. You may also want to consult your staff who regularly use the process to make sure nothing is left out.
2. Analyze the process
Use your map or flowchart to pinpoint potential problems in the system. Think about these questions:
- Which steps might cause frustration from employees or customers?
- Do any steps create a bottleneck and/or delays?
- Which steps require the most amount of time?
- Where can costs go up?
3. Re-design the process (if necessary)
If you identified systematic problems, now is the time to rework steps to eliminate the issues. Getting input from your team is a good idea because they may offer new ideas through their own experience using the process and be more likely to accept changes if they’re involved at an early stage. Test different options and once you and your team agree on a process, create new flowchart to document each step.
4. Implement changes to the process
You may need to recruit the help from others in order to roll out a new process. This may be a senior manager, HR, or team members from other departments. Improving your business process will most likely require changing existing systems, teams, or processes. Move forward delicately and be patient as you work out growing pains and possible resistance from employees who have been using the process for a long time.
5. Review the process
In the following weeks/months, monitor how the new process is working and fix problems as they occur. Making small changes regularly will ensure your systems stay efficient and relevant.
As a business owner, you are most likely an expert in your field. While physically producing the work is your specialty, you should not forget the managerial side that keeps your business running smoothly, or the entrepreneur side that keeps your business moving forward. Implementing and regularly reviewing business processes will help because they streamline the workload for you and your team. It is important for you to continuously work on your business rather than simply working in it.
Great article! My office administrator and I are starting the process tomorrow with writing the steps down and mapping it out. Will seek input for the rest of our team next week.