By Phil Cheesman
As soon as someone starts talking about business processes, most of us roll our eyes upwards and start to think about something else – anything but business processes! After all, it's much more fun just to get on and do something, no matter whether it's the right or wrong thing to be doing at that time, than to be poring over process diagrams. Perhaps we should refer instead to “key activities” – these are the activities that have to be done to make our businesses operate successfully. Business success or failure depends as much on these as it does on anything else. Obviously, there are certain key activities that all businesses have to undertake well. These include marketing, selling, getting paid etc. But there are others which are peculiar to the particular kind of business we are in. For example, NRG wouldn't get very far if it was no good at organising and conducting successful networking meetings or maintaining an effective or efficient contact database.
Many businesses fail to say much (if anything) about how the business is actually supposed to work. This may be because "everybody knows what they have to do and how to do it". But do they? By definition, every time two people in an enterprise carry out the same activity differently, at least one of them is not following the best process. Doing everything the best way possible is one way that successful companies create a competitive advantage. Other ways of creating this advantage may exist but they can be costly whereas improving your processes can often be done quite cheaply.
So how do we know how good our processes are? Well the easiest way to tell is to write them down in some form. The easiest and often most valuable way that we can document your processes is through simple flowcharts. These give a graphic representation which allows us to examine the processes, fine tune them and train people to use them properly. If we can document our key activities in this way, we can see very quickly how effective and efficient they are.
What if you actually had your key processes written down in a form that people can easily and quickly understand them? Who would benefit?
- Your clients – if you look at your processes from a point of view of satisfying and supporting your clients, you will find you have a lot more happy and loyal customers
- your team (both internal and external) – if your key processes have been mapped together, you will minimise frustrations and breakdowns in communication
- yourself – you will have peace of mind that you are doing everything as well as possible and you will find your management workload lightened considerably
So what are you waiting for?
Phil Cheesman has used his 4Words Business Improvement System to help many small-to-medium sized companies to recognize their potential and grow substantially.