Are you in control of your business processes? Do they control you?
Ultimately every business can be divided down into a series of processes. Ordering inventory is a process. Payroll is a process. Recruiting, hiring and training is a process. Shipping and receiving is a process. And yes, building your website is definitely a process. Each of these are simply a series of steps.
Some things that are essential for business are more difficult to put in a process. Abstract concepts like communication, innovation, design, and management are more difficult to fit nicely in these boxes we call processes.
How much is too much? How much is not enough?
Let’s look at a simple illustration. Grocery shopping is a process. But even within that process, there can be many smaller processes.
Let’s go deeper. The process of traveling to and from the grocery store.
You’re in a new town. The future’s bright. You feel like a young entrepreneur with unlimited potential. Now, you’re hungry.
If you don’t know how to get to a grocery store, you could spend an extraordinary amount of time finding one as you wander through the town.
When you arrive, you have no idea whether this grocery store is better, worse, closer or further from your home than other options or, for that matter, whether other options even exist. You spent $100. Did you get a good deal?
Now that you found the grocery store, you have to find your way home. Is the path you took the most direct? Are there shortcuts to your destination?
You need a tool for this process. Perhaps, a GPS. Perhaps, a state-of-the-art GPS. Now there is very little uncertainty.
Not only is the state-of-the-art GPS able to give you the shortest path between you and the grocery store. It provides you with lots of other data. It provides you a detailed path up and down every aisle. It can give you detailed information about how to get from your automobile to the refrigerator in your home.
This may be perfect.
Unfortunately the process this involved require specialized system and specialized tools. You had to purchase the GPS from another company for $200. Now the cost of your grocery store trip has tripled.
Yes, you can reuse the GPS next time you go to the grocery store, but after a trip or two, you’ll know the path by heart. Now you have a $200 paperweight.
I would go to Google maps and search grocery stores near my home. My wife would go to Facebook and get input from other local grocery shoppers.
Between the two of us, we would find the best store and closest store. Now we have great information, clear direction, and no extra expense.
The best part is, this simple concise process can be used anywhere in any town. We can take the process and teach anyone to use it with a little or no training.
A Bigger Picture
Now your trip to the grocery store is a military supply chain. A full battalion of soldiers depends on getting a supply convoy back and forth. The convoy must move through hostile territory and an enemy mine field.
Suddenly you need a process that includes satellite imagery, aircraft reconnaissance, well-trained infantry and vehicles that can resist enemy fire.
Now your grocery store trip costs $1.5 million, but it’s critical that every step of the process be extremely detailed. Furthermore, the process must be implemented flawlessly.
A trip to the market or a military operation?
Chances are your business isn’t as simple as a trip to the market nor as complicated as a life-and-death military operation.
Look at your business and your processes. Ask yourself these questions?
Where in your business are wandering without direction? Can you create a process for clarity?
Where in your business are the processes slowing efficiency, hurting productivity, or increasing costs? Can you simplify the process?
What business processes are essential for your success? What business processes don’t add significant value? What business processes protect you from risk?
Solidify or Simplify?
There are no right and wrong answers. An accounting firm, a restaurant, a manufacturer, and the medical practice are going to have very different answers to these questions.
Your most important processes need to be solid. Look at ways to solidify these critical roadmaps and systems.
Lesser important processes need to be simple. Make them as simple as possible. Focus on working the process rather than the process itself.
Take a quick snapshot of each element of your business and ask yourself, solidify or simplify?