Frances Fawcett takes a look at the importance of processes in everyday business activities
This is the fourth and final blog in a series looking at some fundamental areas of business. Follow the links to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. You can see the background to these ideas explored further in a White Paper: Getting The Business Fundamentals Right via the FREE DOWNLOAD at the bottom of this post.
Previously I discussed the importance of welcoming change and how important it is to be really good at making it happen.
Now it's time to look at when it's really important to do things the same – every time.
Written processes are for the software developers and engineers, right? No, they are for every aspect of a business. I have a background in technology and in manufacturing and still spend a lot of my time in that world, so I have met a lot of software developers, engineers and production managers. They generally think logically and understand the value of processes and the value of writing it down. Every area of business needs to do the same.
I'm frequently surprised when I meet a great engineering or technology company and find that the day-to-day operations of the company aren't documented and can happen quite haphazardly at times. They're applying the discipline of process to their product development, but not to how they run the business.
Whatever your product or service, having processes in place for everyday tasks ensures consistency, and quality, and makes the day-to-day lives of employees easier. It also means that absence, whether planned during holidays or unplanned during sickness, doesn't interrupt the flow of the business and, most importantly, providing a quality product or service to your customers.
Processes take discipline and commitment. Firstly, to the concept of having formal processes in the first place, but also to maintaining them. Your process file (physical or digital) should be a living and breathing part of your business that is regularly used and maintained. It's not a job to do once and then gather dust on a shelf. Processes should be reviewed regularly to make sure they are still correct and reflecting reality. Could they be updated to become even more efficient or deliver even better customer service? Test them by having a day – maybe a couple of times a year – when everyone does someone else's job. That's a bit radical but if you did, the process file would be pulled out for use and the newbie to the task could provide feedback on how clear the documented process is and what could be even better. Definitely a good time to find flaws or omissions in the processes and so much better than when the owner and expert is sipping a cocktail in the sunshine of another country!
Every company I visit has a process telling everyone what to do in the event of an emergency and they display it prominently on the wall. Fortunately, I've only experienced a tiny number of times when those processes were needed, not counting the very necessary drills that take place. So, if you have a process for events that rarely, if ever, happen, why would you not have processes for day-to-day activities that serve your customers? I know that Health and Safety legislation requires you to have processes for emergencies. How about the health and safety of your sales, customer services and employee satisfaction being just as compelling a reason? Definitely things for a business to take as seriously as what to do in an emergency.
As this is the final blog post in this series, some closing remarks seem apt.
These blog posts have discussed basic fundamentals of running a business. From the outside looking in, most people would assume companies have these in place because they are the basics. But they don't – trust me! I have the privilege of working with companies large and small, domestic and international, and supplying hugely diverse products and services. On the whole, the companies I work with tend to be successful – some are extremely successful. But almost none have all the fundamentals right, all the time. They may have great processes and amazing customer retention but need help with long term business planning. Or they may be facing a significant change and need guidance on how to make that as painless and successful as possible.
Businesses are living breathing and evolving organisms – there is always room for them to be even better at getting the fundamentals not just right, but brilliantly right.
Getting the Business Fundamentals right
by Frances Fawcett, MInstLM, FITOL – International Trade Specialist
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