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14 Jan

Not visible – not existing

Date: 2010-01-14 15:33 Comments: 0 st

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.

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