Meadow CreekNews

Business Process

Filed under Business Management, Small Business, Venture Capital and Start Ups on December 3, 2008

Defining the process for every day decision making and tasks is both difficult and essential to successful delegation. Thinking through how you go about doing something is not as easy as it might seem. Several steps will help get through this and create valuable documentation for your business that is essential not only for delegation, but in establish consistency that will improve the quality of services provided that translate into enhanced customer service and improved business performance.

Determine the importance of the task or decision you are developing the process for.
Establish the amount of time and effort that the person should use to accomplish the process.
Start with broad issues and concepts that determine rational results.
Refine the process by narrowing the decision making process to the extent consistent with the importance, time and energy decisions you have made above.
Put the process into words with specific steps to be followed.
Create forms to document the use of the process for record keeping and future process improvement.
Work with the individual to take over the task and teach the process as well as improve the process with their help with the benefit of their independent perspective.
Continue to monitor results, adherence to the process and improve the process with lessons learned.
Protect your investment.

For every day task, we usually do not follow a particular process, but go by “feel” based on our accumulated knowledge from years of experience. Whatever process you do follow may be designed to make decisions quickly on these matters that you do not enjoy or do not have time for. As such, it is probably suboptimal. Now is a good time to rethink how decisions should be made and things are done.

The first step in developing a process is to determine how important this task or decision is. As you rethink the process match the depth of your instructions to the potential value created. It is easy to fall into the trap of defining a perfect process where all possible factors effecting a decision or task are considered and analyzed prior to taking action. While this may lead to improved decision making, it may also slow the process down to the extent that the business suffers and unnecessary expense is incurred in the process. A balance must be achieved between the time and effort required to make a decision or complete a task and the value to the company of the time invested.

What may be obvious and straightforward to you, may not be so to the person you delegate to. The decision making process is like a funnel. Capture the broad issues at first to ensure reasonable results and add to the process from there to refine the results to the extent that is necessary and useful.

Many of the things that you delegate will be very discrete processes that don’t require sophisticated decision making. But behind every discrete process is more elaborate thought that helps explain and understand the process. The knowledge behind the process is the difference between rote decision making and informed implementation of a business process. The former is usually quite transparent to third parties while the latter creates a perception that the individual is as a real member of the organization and a valuable person for a third party to talk to. The value of the business is enhanced when individuals interacting with company stakeholders are perceived as informed and capable of independent decision making and, therefore, assisting whomever they are interacting with.

Don’t just tell someone what to do, give them written instructions. Any process with a reasonable chance of being followed can be put into words. Words leave far less of a chance than being misunderstood and can be passed on to others with changes in staffing. Forms should also be established to document that the process is being followed and the results achieved. This is a quality control function that establishes a consistent implementation of your business methods as well as a vehicle for review and periodic process improvement. If a process is not consistently followed it is more than likely because the process is not good. Most people are not by nature inclined to not do what they are told. Lack of adherence to the process more than likely means that it is not adding value or time constraints do not allow for the process to be used. If the anticipated results are not achieved, then there is also cause for improving the process. Periodic review is an important facet of any quality program.

What makes perfect sense to you may not mean a thing to someone else. Take time to sit down with the person responsible for implementing your process and walk them through it a couple of times. Make sure the steps and their rationale are clearly understood. Make changes and notes to the process based on your discussion to improve clarity.

At regular intervals, use the tracking data to evaluate the effectiveness of the process by the results achieved. Your business changes over time and the no process is likely to be as effective or of the same relevance at some point in the future. Make a point of scheduling periodic reviews.

One last note is to protect your business process. What you develop should be considered a valuable intellectual property asset of the company. How you go about doing things should be a competitive advantage you have over the competition. Don’t allow others to take what you have developed at significant investment in time and energy and use it as their own. This information reflects your accumulated experience in managing your business and creating customer satisfaction. While the process documentation needs to be readily available to the individuals that use it, the hard copies should be numbered and tracked, marked confidential or copy righted. Hard copies might be printed on paper that shows a special watermark when copied. Electronic files should be protected. This may seem silly at first, but business process is a valued asset of the largest corporations. The adoption of highly structured quality programs and “business systems” are corporate priorities as they are enthusiastically received by the investment community.

Richard Gabel

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