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:
- Identify something you are doing in your business that you think could use some improvements.
- Determine what activities the process begin and end with.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- When you have finished the process, look at the outline you have drawn. You should feel pleased at what you have accomplished.
- 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?
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.