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14 Jan

Not visible – not existing

Datum: 2010-01-14 15:33

If we, like Georges Perec in the fas­ci­nat­ing nov­el Life – a User’s Man­u­al”, could freeze time just for a moment on an ordi­nary day at work, how much of your busi­ness would be vis­i­ble to the naked eye? 

Are the things you do vis­i­ble only when you are doing them, or are your rou­tines and flows visu­al­ized in any way, so it would be pos­si­ble for an out­sider to study them, even if every­thing was stand­ing still?

To describe your busi­ness in terms of work-flows is valu­able, both mak­ing the actu­al real-time descrip­tion and the com­plete doc­u­men­ta­tion after­wards. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant in ser­vice-busi­ness­es since the ser­vice isn’t vis­i­ble unless some­one is per­form­ing it. 

Do you find plea­sure, in the same way as I do, in map­ping out process­es? Do you enjoy draw­ing box­es and arrows in a schemat­ic way? Is your work­ing-day com­plete when you have cap­tured an ongo­ing activ­i­ty as series of flows? 

Per­haps not, but the actu­al visu­al­iza­tion of the work doesn’t need to be as for­mal as the flow­charts that first come to mind. A check­list, an ani­ma­tion, a map of sym­bols or maybe even a com­ic-strip may be the per­fect way to illus­trate it, as long as it is appro­pri­ate for the tar­get-group and the purpose. 

But what is the actu­al point of describ­ing your business?

Here are sev­en rea­sons why visu­al­iz­ing your com­pa­ny through flow­charts is useful.

When some­one else needs to do your job

If you have more inter­est­ing things you want or need to do, and want to del­e­gate what you do to some­one else for a day, this is much eas­i­er facil­i­tat­ed if you have described what you do in a tan­gi­ble way rather than if you just keep it all in your head.

Like a backup

Your busi­ness becomes less sen­si­tive and not so depen­dent on spe­cif­ic peo­ple, if the knowl­edge of how things are done is described and doc­u­ment­ed rather than that a few key peo­ple just know it”.

Eas­i­er to improve

A flow that is visu­al­ized is eas­i­er to improve than one that isn’t. If you can see it in front of you, it is much eas­i­er to see where the flow slows down and final­ly stops. It is also eas­i­er to test how the process changes if you switch some of the activ­i­ties around.

Find­ing flaws

If you have visu­al­ized a flow, you can test it by going through the rou­tine step by step. If you for instance won­der how piles of paper form on your desk all the time, despite your cleans­ing efforts, you can find the rea­son to this by play­ing office” and fol­low a fic­tion­al postal pack­age (for exam­ple an invoice, a fly­er, an invi­ta­tion; what­ev­er you can find in the pile) from when it arrives in the mail until it ends up in your pile. You will dis­cov­er what form of nat­ur­al place for stor­age that you’re miss­ing and at what point you put the paper in the pile instead of where you would rather place it, if only you knew where that place was.

More peo­ple can make a contribution

If you have all the sig­nif­i­cant process­es or work flows described on a suit­ably abstract lev­el, you will make it more clear for the co-work­ers who is doing what at a cer­tain time. It will then be eas­i­er for each and every­one to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for that things run smooth­ly (and fill in for each oth­er when it’s need­ed). You will not have to attend to all the emer­gen­cies alone.

Now, how did I do this?”

If you catch your­self think­ing about how you per­formed a cer­tain rou­tine more often than you’d like, then a descrip­tion func­tions as a prac­ti­cal man­u­al. With a clear check­list you will not have to waste time and ener­gy on remem­ber­ing how you did it last time and instead focus more on the more rel­e­vant tasks ahead.

The ear­li­er the client under­stands, the faster the deal

A pleas­ant­ly illus­trat­ed descrip­tion of how your ser­vices are per­formed makes it eas­i­er for your future client to make deci­sions regard­ing any pend­ing or upcom­ing deals. The more the client under­stands, the more com­fort­able she will feel and you will close the deal faster.

What was your reason?

What was the most sig­nif­i­cant rea­son for you to describe your busi­ness? How did it effect you? What effect sur­prised you the most? Your expe­ri­ences are more than wel­come, so please leave a com­ment below.