Can you say this to anyone visiting your business, and then actually walk them through your business workflow? Would a new employee (or a potential buyer of your business) be able to see exactly how your business works end-to-end, live?
If this is not the case, then your business is likely to have one or more of the following business risks:
- Missed revenue opportunities, because of difficulty dealing with sudden increase in demand
- Unidentifiable bottlenecks in your operations
- Difficult-to-manage Key Person Risk
- Inefficient training of new and existing employees
- Inconsistent quality in product or service
- Talent potential not fully utilized
Let me explain
Regardless of what kind of business you are in, a great deal of your operations can be described in a number of processes or workflows. Having a crystal clear picture of your business workflow is like watching an engine running from the inside. You will be able to identify, sometimes predict, potential hiccups, address them quickly and effectively without missing a beat. All the risks I listed above will be under your control.What may be more important, you will be able to clearly demonstrate the work flow and so demand a far greater premium for your well run business.
All this in exchange for some focused documentation and disciplined monitoring.
How? Always ask what is required to do a particular job, NOT who needs to do it.
For instance, and to get started, list in simple terms, every step of a typical service you have. Think from the moment the client rings, to preparing the quote, to following up on quote, to execution, to delivery, and to a client feedback process.
Then describe each of these components of the service in a more detailed list of steps. For instance, what is involved in the process of preparing a quote? What information would you need to complete a pricing offer? What do you need to do to prepare for an appraisal meeting?
You get the picture.
Yes but we are not manufacturers, how can you describe creativity in a process?!
You cannot and shouldn’t. You manage and automate the workflow around the creative elements. This allows the creative employee to focus on their magic touch.
I have been able to help clients transform their understanding of their own business after going through this exercise. Some did not even appreciate the amount of wasted time their high-talent is spending in order to get a job done. One client said “so you are telling me that in these 11 steps Evan is only needed for steps 6 & 7? This means he can do 10 more of these reports a day, if we outsource the other steps at a much cheaper rate!”
Don’t stop here. Ask your employees to develop and own their own workflows.
Operating procedures are the backbones of any successful business. But to be effective, these processes should rely on the autonomy and initiative of the employees to keep them relevant and up-to-date.
To lead, aspire and create, autonomous employees need the structure and predictability of standardized processes. This then allows talent to focus on the creative and the unpredictable.