A place for everything, and…

How would you rank yourself on a Control Freakishness scale from 1 – 10?

Are you borderline OCD or the human equivalent of a family of chimpanzees?

Either way, no matter which end of the scale you’re on, your business needs to be organised. Why? Because if it’s not you’re likely to have a serious impact on its potential scalability and efficiency.

‘OMG, you’re talking about processes aren’t you? But processes are so boring!’

Yes, I am talking about processes and, true, they can be boring, but before you drift off into a coma answer me this question; how many times do you repeatedly do the same thing in your business but execute it in just a slightly different way, and does this ever cause you problems later on?

If the answer to that question is ‘often’, then you’ll understand exactly what I mean when I tell you that no matter how boring a process model is, it’s better than the constant idiosyncratic iteration that occurs every time someone reinvents the same wheel that was created (already, again) yesterday.

Process models lead to consistency, continuity and efficiency. It’s pretty much as simple as that.

Start Early

What’s important to understand here though is that you don’t need to go to the nth degree of detail in order to implement a basic set of process models inside your business. However, the best time to implement them is as early as possible. Start as you mean to go on.

Why do I say this? Well, if you’re not a very process oriented person but you’re in a business that needs process to function correctly, your personality traits will most likely start to overlook these requirements and kick them into the long grass (which is code for ‘never to be seen again’).

You don’t need to be a flowchart genius to create a process model; all you need is a blank sheet of paper and a pen. Mapping a process out on paper (or even better on a whiteboard) is a really easy way for you to go through the trial and error of how you expect things to work in practical reality. Quite often, just the act of completing the exercise itself will expose questions, challenges and bottlenecks that you probably won’t have considered before and can therefore now deal with. So, even before you begin to execute your new process you’ve already made it more efficient than it was before.

What comes out of this then is the beginning of a set of working practices and there are two main, real, advantages to them; first of all you have a repeatable working model that you know works and that gives you confidence in terms of its deliverability and outcome, and, secondly you have a pathway that you can use to educate others as they come and join the team. And this second aspect is way more valuable than you might think.

Simplicity is Key

But this is just the beginning though. The best processes have two very clear things that identify them; they are simple but have been updated many times. In many ways updating them over time makes them simpler to implement (if you start with this mentality) and it’s this simplicity that really makes a difference in the end. In general, we all tend to overcomplicate things but there is a real artform to simplification. It’s a lot harder than it seems but it’s a fantastic aspiration to have. You’ll also know it when you see it.

As your business grows it also changes. Some of this is inside your control and some of it is circumstantial. I read a great quote once that said;

‘Nothing changes in 12 months but everything’s different in 24’

It’s bizarre but amazing how this just appears to be true! The point is though, that as your business and its interactions change, your process models will need to change along with them. This means that the time you’ve spent creating these processes will not be wasted if you come back to them on a regular basis and update them for where your business is right now.

Software comes later

You’ll notice that I haven’t pushed you down a technology route here. I could do that easily but I feel it’s a bit of a cop-out. Although there are many, many software solutions that handle both process design and digital implementation, even as a technology evangelist, I don’t think that this is the best place to start. You need to build and iterate your processes manually first, fully understand them, and then (if it’s appropriate) digitise them. If you do it the other way round you’re likely to lose some of the process nuance while worrying about how to make it ‘fit’ into your chosen software.

So, understand what needs constant repetition inside your business and map these processes (manually) early on. Iterate them as and when required and focus on making them as simple as possible at all times. Do this well and you’ll be building in efficiency and cost savings from day one, which is something you’ll be glad you did.

Processes are boring, but saving money isn’t 😉


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