Here’s a thought for you, that should keep you awake for a while …
How much do you rely on the people that work in your business, and how much of the day-to-day running of the operation can only happen because x or y knows what to do? What would happen if x or y decided that the grass was greener elsewhere, and left you in the lurch?
I see this quite a lot with software, especially Office tools like MS Excel and MS Access. Someone in the office has built something that actually does quite an important job, but then they’ve cleared off. The business has soldiered on, because the system still pretty much works – it just doesn’t cover this new situation, or that new requirement, and nobody in the business now has the expertise to fix it.
Obviously the MS Office part is a technical skill that can be replaced, but often the business knowledge that went into building the system in the first place is what makes it valuable to you, and that bit isn’t so easy to replace.
You really need to think about how you can get some of this business knowledge out of people’s heads. It makes sense to capture it while you can. You wouldn’t leave your computer systems without a data backup, so why don’t you back up the valuable knowledge and experience that exists in your business and its people as well?
The information you need is in the heads of the people who are performing the tasks every day – all of their procedures and processes are what you need to capture, via some business process mapping. That sounds a bit grandiose, but you don’t need to go into too much detail, or make too big a deal out of it – it’s just a method of clarifying what happens in the business, and documenting it.
You need to establish how different departments work together, and what the information flows are between them. You can draw them out, if you are visual, or just list them as bullet points – whatever works best for you. You don’t need a massive degree of detail, but at the same time it shouldn’t be too much of an overview.
You are looking to produce a document that is sufficient for someone who has just joined the business to use to pick up the required level of knowledge to be able to perform the task and take ownership of the process.
A win-win situation
You will find that you get a number of benefits from undertaking this excercise, so don’t write it off as a waste of time, or something that will not be of any great help to you.
You’ll be surprised at how much better people perform if they can take ownership of some of their work. Playing a part in a structured process gives them that independence. Everyone knows what is expected of them, and they should rise to the challenge – much better than having someone bark instructions at you all day long!
There should be a healthy improvement in efficiencyas well, partly because people know what is espected of them and there is no need to manage activities on the fly. You should be getting better use of the resources that you have, so can concentrate more on growing the business as opposed to fighting fires.
Training and Compliance
Finally, of course, you have a set of ready-made training manuals. New staff can easily understand their role, and also see how they fit into the bigger picture, all of which helps them to contribute more to the business in a shorter time, as well as freeing up your time and resource by reducing the time it takes them to be productive.
If you decide at any time to go for some compliance standard, like ISO 9001, you are already half-way there. As you create and adapt your process maps, you can take account of current best practice for your industry.
To help you to get started I’ve prepared a very basic introduction to mapping out your processes. It’s just a few pages, and you’re welcome to it – I hope it helps.
All I’d like in return is your email address, which will go no further than me and my business, and will not be used to spam you. I may very occasionally send you some news, or something that might be of interest or value, but that’s it!
No risk – sign up, read and enjoy! You’ll be sent a link to the download at the email address you supply.