What is a good process?
A good process is not a chance encounter. It’s a decision of working a certain way to achieve an end deliverable. It takes time and effort to understand the key fundamentals of what the ideal process looks like, who are the stakeholders and what actions are required to achieve the end result. Let’s break this down.
A process is ‘a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end’. A process has a start and an end. It can be as simple or complex as is necessary to achieve an end result that is optimised, effective and achievable. You may think a process should evolve naturally but unfortunately for business, they often do not or the time and attention is not given to the process to make it effective. Steps can get cut out, key people may not be involved or informed, the goal may not be aligned with the steps taken. There are a number of reasons a process can go wrong and it’s not always clear to those involved why.
What does the picture look like?
Everyone has their own perceptions and views on how something will work. It’s human nature. What one person sees visually another may not understand at all, so it’s extremely important to map out what a process looks like in a way that makes sense to those that implement it and use it. A workflow is often a great way to visually represent a process. This should be done alongside a brain dump of all the aspects of the process to cover what needs to be included. Once you have a workflow then a written process is a great way to complement and explain each step of the workflow. A workflow will also show you gaps and interactions you may not have realised or seen before. Step 1 -> Step 2 -> [key action] -> Step 3 | Skip to Step 6 etc.
Who are the Stakeholders?
Stakeholders are everyone that is affected by the process – directly or indirectly. Their impact on the process must be taken into account. If you don’t have the right people involved in the creation and evaluation of the process inevitably it will not have buy-in to be successful. Many processes only require one person to make it good, others require a whole business to be on board.
An example of this is submitting an invoice for payment. The starting point is people need to be paid and the goal is payment is made. Who needs to be involved in this process? It may be more people than you think. The company should have a policy or some written statement advising what the requirements are in order to get paid. This informs the person of how much they can charge. What about expenses? Extras? Was it a trip or event they attended? Who processes the payment? What are the terms of payment? What information is needed on an invoice in order to make the payment? A simple statement of making a payment to someone suddenly is quite a detailed process. If payment happens then excellent, result! What happens next? Where is that paperwork filed? Who does the payment need to reported to? How long to do you keep the record of the payment being made. Is this a new process, or a continuation of the current process?
A good process will take into account all the exceptions, rules, policies and motivations that inform the end goal. Complex processes should be broken down into pieces in order to be able to see how the pieces fit together in order to maximise their effectiveness.
What Actions are needed to achieve the end result?
All the stakeholders need to be invested in the result and be willing to engage in the process where and when necessary. A CEO’s main function may be a small action within the process, but in order for a process to be effective, the CEO must know why and what impact their action has in order to make the process function properly. If in the example above the invoice submission needed to be signed off by a CEO and they took 3 weeks to take action, how does that then impact the effectiveness of the process? Whose responsibility is it to make sure the process is achieved?
Many good processes have contingencies and alternative paths built in to combat potential obstacles. Who else could sign off an invoice if the CEO is too busy? What responsibility could be delegated to give the CEO oversight but not necessarily direct action?
The process is implemented – we’re done right?
Once a process is in place it cannot be forgotten about. A good process is continually being reviewed, reflected and evaluated. How often do you ask stakeholders for feedback by asking “what do you think?”. That question can have huge consequences depending on the process. If you think of business giants such as Amazon and Google and the ease of use of their systems, how many hours do you think has been invested with people asking behind the scenes “what do you think?”. What works? What do we need to revisit? All of these types of questions are integral to mapping the picture of a good process and businesses must think beyond just implementing and forgetting.
A good process must:
- Be mapped out in a way that makes sense to all involved
- Consider and clearly state all the implications from start to end
- Involve all stakeholders who may have a direct or indirect impact
- Be regularly evaluated and not forgotten
If you are not sure how effective your business processes are and want some support, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us – we love seeing good processes in place to make businesses even better.