Tips for Building Processes

Tips for Building Processes

Ian Richardson, Managing Partner, Richardson & Richardson Consulting LLC

Tips for Building Processes

I talk with a lot of entrepreneurs throughout the week. Between hosting the W.I.N. (What’s important now?) Podcast, managing R&R’s various webinar series (Like The Thursday Process), hosting our 90-minute consultations, and doing the daily consulting work in service of our clients – I get around. One of the top three issues I encounter in those conversations is a “lack of process” in the organization I’m speaking with. Processes aren’t written down, what is written down isn’t adhered to, people have different understandings of what the process is. The list goes on and on. Carrie routinely tells me that “process is your superpower.” I’m still on the fence on that one, but I do have a few easy tips for building processes that I thought might help some of you out if this struggle hits close to home.

Why does process matter?

I had an interesting discovery conversation with two entrepreneurs a couple of months back. One was looking to purchase an existing $2MM I.T. company from the other. Future owner and current owner. The future owner of the business had brought me in originally to talk about lead generation – as we spoke it became clear that process and building a plan around the eventual exit of the current owner was far more valuable. As I spoke with the current owner around the business and its current state, he made the statement “I don’t see the value in writing those things down. You can spend all the time in the world ‘systematizing’ things, but we know how it needs to be done, that’s just a waste of time.”

I was in shock; I could see the future owner was surprised as well. This viewpoint is far from uncommon, even if others might state it a bit more gracefully, too often the “important” (process documentation) gets ignored for the “urgent” (customer issues, HR issues, sales opportunities, literally anything else).

I’ll tell you the same thing I told those entrepreneurs: A study by OMG, backed by research from Harvard Business Review, showed that process can improve outcomes by 15%. 15% better outcomes are worth writing stuff down.

That’s why process matters.

With that said, here are 7 tips for building processes.

7 Tips for building processes

  1. Write it down: Seems self-evident, but above everything else, get your process written down. With a documented process, at a minimum your team can all refer to the document when performing the tasks detailed.
  2. Keep it simple: Too often, we get derailed by complexity – we’re too smart for our own good. Process is about making it so that ANYONE can do the task at hand. You need to use simplistic language, easy to understand steps, and make it so that someone can pick up the task in their first 90 days on your team.
  3. Don’t assume anything: Your team have “institutional knowledge” – You know your industry, your clients, your teammates, the way things are done, and usually the “process” itself. Someone new to your team doesn’t know any of those things – don’t assume knowledge of any part of your process.
  4. Use pictures and flowcharts: A picture says a thousand words. 1 picture is better than 1000 words when it comes to keeping it simple. Make diagrams, charts, graphs, picture, and other visual tools to help make your process accessible.
  5. Develop procedures for parts of your process: Your process may have many steps involved in it. Some of those steps might be complicated or complex. Create step by step guides (procedures) on how you want those steps performed to ensure they’re done correctly.
  6. Think about error handling: No one can predict the future or see every outcome. You need to create an error handling procedure for your key business processes that someone can “fall back on” if they run into a roadblock.
  7. Revise and rewrite: Nothing lasts forever – don’t write your processes in stone. Solicit feedback and critiques from your team and your clients. Improve on your processes annually.

Final Thoughts

Process really is a superweapon when it comes to business improvement. One final item that I would be woe to not mention.

Hold everyone accountable

The best documented process, simple and easy to understand, supported by procedures, pictures, and with no assumptions, combined with a graceful error handling mechanism is worth NOTHING if you don’t hold people accountable. Have the awkward conversations around process adherence, and your process will return dividends.

If you’re struggling to develop process, or get your team to follow it, Richardson & Richardson can help. Check out our case studies for stories of organizations that we’ve assisted with similar issues and download our white papers for deep dives on tools you can use in your organization. If you’re wondering where to start, book a complimentary session with one of the Richardsons today to come up with a plan on how to move forward.


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