What are processes?
Processes are a series of steps or actions to complete a task. For instance, when you want to cook a burger there’s a process for that. First, you get the meat out and form it into a patty. Next, you get the pan out and turn the stove on to the desired temperature. When the pan heats up you put the patty onto the pan. After a certain amount of time, you flip the burger to cook the other side. When the burger is cooked to the desired wellness, you turn the stove off. You then, get a bun out and put the cooked patty onto it.
This is roughly the process of cooking a burger but I’m not sure if you noticed but there are a few inefficiencies in this process that could be improved upon. This is where managing and improving processes come into play. For instance, it takes a little while to warm up the pan so you should start that first. Then, while that’s warming up get the bun ready then patty the burger. Eliminating some of this wasted time will cut down the time it takes to cook your burger, making you a more efficient burger cooker.
These same tactics explained in the previous example can be used to manage and improve processes not only in your professional world but can be used in your personal life as well.
What are procedures?
Procedures are an official way of doing something like a process. They are guidelines that are used to help people get the job done. Typically these are written out and provided to all parties that do this action or process. Procedures can be extremely helpful in businesses or departments of any size.
Why are procedures important?
Properly utilizing processes and procedures has many benefits. Doing things the same way every time leads to less room for error, making things more efficient and predictable. Results are more consistent and have a higher chance of the desired outcome. Having procedures in place also requires less experience for someone to complete a task since everything is broken down into steps. Procedures also have less chance of confusion. Make your team more effective by easily creating some procedures using the steps below.
Steps for Setting Up a Procedure for a Process
Step 1: Understand the Process
The first step is reviewing and understanding the process. To do this you want to watch as many people doing the process as possible. Even if it’s something you do or have done in the past, it’s important to watch others doing it if possible.
At this point, you need to be unbiased. Avoid trying to make any adjustments or have people do things differently. This stage is just for finding out the various steps of the process. Ask questions when needed from those completing the process. For instance, it may be necessary to ask why somebody did a step in a certain way.
Take notes during this stage. You should be recording how long each step takes each person to complete. Also, it’s important to record the order of the steps. Take note of any roadblocks like employees waiting on another department before they can complete their task or waiting on supervisor approval before moving on.
Step 2: Create the First Draft
Now that you have all the data it’s time to create your first draft of the process. In this stage, you want to write down all the steps it takes the workers to complete the task. Put them in the order of how the majority of the workers do it and put the average time of each step.
Step 3: Review and Eliminate Inefficiencies
Review the draft you created for wasted time or places that things can be done more efficiently. This could be something like doing step 1 on multiple products before moving on to step 2 or it may mean reordering the steps. Remember to weigh the cost of eliminating or changing a step. For example, if you eliminate a step for supervisor approval, how much will quality suffer?
Step 4: Have Stakeholders Review
When I say stakeholders, I’m referring to the people that will perform this process the most. It’s always important to have as much input from those that will complete the task. They may see something you didn’t see. Once again it’s important to go into this step unbiased because these stakeholders typically have a wealth of knowledge and information when it comes to this process.
Step 5: Create Final Draft
Using all the information and feedback gathered from the stakeholders, create the final draft. This is the draft that should be ready to present to everybody else. This is the draft that should be free of errors and in a good step-by-step format that will be easy for others to read.
Step 6: Present to Upper Management (if required)
This step depends on your position and the people you work for. If required, present the procedure to your boss. Be prepared at this stage to explain areas that have been improved and the need for this procedure.
Step 7: Present the Procedure to Stakeholders
The next step is to present your new procedure to the employees that will be using it. Make sure they all understand it and reinforce it when necessary. At first, people may need you to help them through the process a few times. You may even have to demonstrate it for the group depending on the complexity. The process can be presented to each employee individually, through a memo, or in a group setting like a meeting. You have to determine which method is the best delivery method.
Step 8: Monitor For Improvements
Things do change in business. Technology gets better, employees change, goals of the company change and many other things can affect processes change. This is why it’s important to monitor procedures for improvements or to see if they are even still valid.
Tips For Managing Processes Effectively
The most effective way to manage processes is to automate as much as possible in the process. When things happen automatically there is pretty much zero chance for failure. For example, there may be a step in a process where a team member finishes a form about a product then sends it to the shipping department to prepare the shipping. There’s a way to set the form up so that once it’s signed it automatically brings up your email service with the correct recipients in the “To” block.
This use of technology to automate processes is called business process automation (BPA). This can be a great way to increase efficiency, reduce errors, save time, and ultimately reduce costs.
There are many apps and programs out there that can help you automate processes. For instance, Zappier is a program that can automate tasks between different apps you use. You can set it up so when a certain action occurs it automatically triggers other actions. For example, let’s say you get an order which triggers an action in Zapier to send automatically send an email to the various departments.
If you’re not using apps for team management and productivity you’re missing out on some valuable technology. If you would like to learn more about apps and programs for team management and productivity click the link.
When it comes to processes, consistency is key. If processes are done the same way every time, there is little room for error. This also makes them more predictable. You should monitor processes for any deviations. When these deviations occur, figure out why they occurred. Is it something that you can fix so the process can be more consistent or does the process need to be refined?
Write It Out
Use the steps above to make a process a procedure. This is a great way to make sure it’s done the same way each time. This also allows you to give each person performing the process a point of reference to follow when performing the process.
Adjust When Necessary
I know I just said processes should be consistent but you want to be careful getting stuck in the past. There times where you need to adjust processes to keep up with the changing world. Be careful not to constantly change the process. It should only be adjusted when it needs to be changed. Whenever a process is changed even a little bit, there will be a learning curve. This means a new process may not seem as good as an old process initially. A team may need some time to get the new process down. Keep this in mind when you are evaluating any changes made.
Tips For Improving Processes
The first tip for improving processes is monitoring your processes. Always look for areas that can be improved. Make sure you take some time monitoring processes. Especially when you are new to the process. Don’t think there’s a problem every time there’s one little hiccup but be on the lookout for chronic roadblocks in processes.
Listen To Your Team
The people performing the process are the ones that typically have the best ideas to improve the process. They are the ones doing the process so they have first-hand knowledge. This knowledge is vital to changing for the better. As a bonus, if one of your team members helps come up with the idea for change, they will back it with the rest of the team.
Giving and getting feedback is huge in every aspect of leadership and management. This is where some of the most valuable guidance and mentorship happens. For some great tips on giving and receiving feedback click the link.
Know Team Capabilities
As your team changes and evolves, their capabilities will change. This could mean as your team becomes more experienced, they may become more capable. If you get more new people on your team they may become less capable. Your team’s capabilities may change the way you do things. Processes may need to be simplified or adjusted based on your team.
Stay Current With Technology
New technological advances are happening every day. Use this technology to your advantage when it comes to improving processes. Technology can be great for automating and streamlining processes.
Bottlenecks are areas of a process where everything slows down. For example, it may be employees waiting on the processing department to process orders before they can begin. Looking for ways to eliminate these bottlenecks can be a good way to keep your team productive.
Cut Out The Waste
Waste can be time or money because when it comes down to it time is money. In many processes, there is waste created at one point or another. This could be wasted time from a bottleneck or it could be a byproduct of a manufacturing process. Cutting out or at least minimizing the waste as much as possible is a great way to increase the business’s bottom line.
Wrapping It Up
Processes are a very important aspect of any business. Refining, managing, and improving processes is a sure-fire way to add more productivity and profit to the business.
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