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11 Nov

A small step for you, a giant leap for your business

Datum: 2009-11-11 09:44

Imag­ine that a busi­ness, any kind of busi­ness, con­sists of a bunch of process­es involv­ing and per­formed by dif­fer­ent par­tic­i­pants (which could be employ­ees, machin­ery, soft­ware, etc). 

So, a process is then a rou­tine, a series of activ­i­ties that have a cer­tain start­ing point and fin­ish­ing line. One, a few or many par­tic­i­pants may be involved in com­plet­ing the activ­i­ties in the process. 

The pur­pose of look­ing at the busi­ness as a bunch of process­es is that it makes it pos­si­ble to improve it in a prac­ti­cal, sys­tem­at­ic and struc­tured way. 

The improve­ments may give a more sta­bile ser­vice to the client, the ser­vice or prod­uct may see to the client’s needs even bet­ter, the process may require less time and ener­gy, the par­tic­i­pants of the process may expe­ri­ence a smoother work­day, etc.

Map­ping out the process…

A com­mon­ly accept­ed and recur­ring way to work with improve­ments of the process is to map the process and record it in process-maps, and then redesign it using the process descrip­tions, in the inten­tion of lift­ing it to the next lev­el. To some­one less expe­ri­enced, this method may appear com­pli­cat­ed and unfa­mil­iar, but it doesn’t need to be.

… or mak­ing it even easier

Since I am a struk­tör (which is a kind of struc­tur­al con­sul­tant), I am a big fan of sim­plic­i­ty. Even the improve­ment of the process can be sim­pli­fied and made more accessible.

Here’s one way to do it:

  1. Iden­ti­fy some­thing you are doing in your busi­ness that you think could use some improvements. 
  2. Deter­mine what activ­i­ties the process begin and end with. 
  3. Ask your­self what the main pur­pose of the process is, keep­ing the peo­ple it is intend­ed for in mind. What is impor­tant for the client? What is impor­tant for the co- work­ers? What is the pri­or­i­ty of the own­er of the business? 
  4. Now it’s time to describe the process. Wait until the next time you are about to per­form the process you have in mind. Open a new doc­u­ment in Word, Notepad or some oth­er word pro­cess­ing soft­ware in your com­put­er, or just grab a pen and a notepad. Make sure to keep these close at hand when work­ing your way through the process. 
  5. As you move through the process this time, step by step, note and write down all the steps. It is up to you how detailed you want your recount. The more detailed you make it, the eas­i­er it will be to find the weak spots and improve them. Try not to record steps that you are not per­form­ing at the moment, but work through the process as usu­al, only this time you are notic­ing and record­ing what you are doing. If you want to, draw the flow of steps along the way as sym­bols or box­es. If you want to make it even eas­i­er, just write it in bullet-points.
  6. If you hap­pen to think of a bet­ter way to work with an activ­i­ty, make a note of your idea at once on a sep­a­rate sheet of paper. 
  7. When you have fin­ished the process, look at the out­line you have drawn. You should feel pleased at what you have accomplished. 
  8. Now take a moment to con­sid­er if you could make improve­ments in some oth­er way in anoth­er part of the process, which would make it even more effi­cient and acces­si­ble to those who it is intend­ed for. Ask yourself: 
    • Are there unnec­es­sary activ­i­ties which need to be removed? 
    • Does the process need a new activ­i­ty somewhere?
    • Do some activ­i­ties need to be rearranged?
    • Do you need to cre­ate a new tool, a form, a check-list or some­thing else to make the process run smoother?
  9. Save the descrip­tion of the process in this cur­rent ver­sion (as a sug­ges­tion, you can save the doc­u­ment on your com­put­er as Map­ping the process X, Ver­sion 1.0).
  10. Adjust the descrip­tion into what you would say is the ide­al process, into what you want the process to actu­al­ly be, and make it into a check-list which you can use the next time you are per­form­ing the process. 
  11. The next time you per­form the process, fol­low the check-list (which now is the new and improved ver­sion of the orig­i­nal process, only a tad bet­ter than when you did it last time).
  12. Con­grat­u­la­tions! You have now com­plet­ed one lap and have moved upwards in the spi­ral of change. You have just made improve­ments which has made your busi­ness a lit­tle bit bet­ter than was just a minute ago.
  13. Keep adjust­ing the process/​the check-list so it keeps improv­ing and mov­ing for­ward, one step at a time… and anoth­er step… and another.

How do you do it?

Do you know of anoth­er way to sim­pli­fy and improve ordi­nary rou­tines by improv­ing the process­es? Leave a com­ment below. I am always on the look out for new ways to improve our workday.