A Gartner Report found that companies tend to receive at least a 15% ROI from investing in business process management. Creating processes allows you to streamline repeatable tasks so that employees and outsourced support can complete them quickly and accurately.
Here at Prialto, we live on processes. Having clear, documented instructions are what allow our productivity assistants to provide consistent service to the clients they support. In this article, we’ll walk you through the stages of process development so you can immediately start using them to streamline your organization's repeatable tasks.
Validate the Need for a Process
Before you create a process, validate the need for one. The one downside of streamlining tasks is that it limits employee autonomy. Research shows that autonomy plays a significant role in employee engagement, morale, and organizational commitment. If you’re going to lessen it, you must have a reason.
Here are the reasons to create a process:
- You have a task that must always produce the same outputs. For example, your invoices and expense reports must follow a specific format to be accepted by accounting.
- You’re passing off tedious and/or complex tasks to a junior level employee who does not know how to do them.
- There is an efficient method to complete a task that works for most people.
- A task involves using software that others may not be familiar with.
- You have specific preferences for a task.
The trend among all of these reasons is that there is an objectively correct way to do something. In these cases, autonomy would likely cause individuals to fail and thus cancel out the benefits of having it.
Create Foolproof Processes
Spending time developing a procedure is worth the investment because its clarity and completeness dictate how effectively individuals can implement it.
Research shows there are four factors for creating a foolproof process:
1) Choosing the right place
You don’t have to worry about this for most computer-based procedures. Place is relevant for tasks like making setting up equipment, arranging merchandise, organizing shipments, etc.
2) Assigning implementation to the right people
Identify who in your organization has the best availability to implement your process reliably. If everyone is overwhelmed with work, consider outsourcing your repeatable tasks to a managed virtual assistant service.
3) Giving people access to the necessary resources
What does someone need to fulfill the process? Funding, online tools, permission from an authority figure, etc.? If those resources aren’t readily available, your process needs to include instructions for how to access them.
4) Scheduling it to be completed at the optimal time, if relevant
Does the process work better at specific days and/or times than others? If so, identify the best time(s) and include it in your process. For example, you have a higher positive response rate if you schedule meetings or campaigns at prime times.
Once you’ve considered those factors, write your process. If it’s a task you know how to do, simply type up your steps. Your instructions should be clear enough that you can hire a new person to do it and they’ll be able to without asking any questions.
If you’re creating a process for a task that you don’t 100% know how to do, you have two options:
1) Enlist the help of someone who does. Perhaps you can leverage an employee who has a strong grasp of the task or advice from someone who online has written about how they do it. If neither of those options are available, you can hire a consultant who specializes in process development or do option two:
2) Learn how to do the task yourself and develop a process as you go. If you have the time, this is a great option because, as a leader, it is always beneficial to understand your subordinates’ work.
Iterate your process until you’re confident it will work.
Double Test to Ensure Accuracy
Testing the accuracy of your process is critical for a successful implementation. You should conduct at least two tests:
1) Follow the process by yourself. See if you run into any errors, missing steps, or setbacks. Try not to let your knowledge of the work aid you in completing the process.
2) Ask a colleague who is not involved with the project to follow the process. Leave them alone to complete the work and see if they produce the correct output. Having someone else test it gives you an accurate idea of which parts of the process are confusing for new people. If you run into issues during either of these tests, take corrective actions and test again.
Repeat these steps until you pass both tests error-free. If this sounds like a tedious process, it’s not as time-consuming as you may fear. Often, it only takes one to two tests to master simple processes. If it takes more than that, that’s a sign that your process needs to be improved.
Keys to a Successful Implementation
Your process is only valuable if you successfully implement it. If you’re assigning the process to internal employees, don’t just demand they do it; explain why the new process matters.
As previously mentioned, people don’t like losing their autonomy and, since it’s impossible for people to make decisions without using the emotional sides of our brain, they may resist having processes forced upon them. When you prepare your employee(s) for implementation, focus on how it is going to make their work easier and enable them to be more successful.
However, if you’re outsourcing the process to an assistant, you can worry less about resistance and more about understanding. Even though you tested your process, it’s still possible that common knowledge within your organization blinded you to some missing steps and/or clarifications. After delegating the task, be readily available to answer questions and use your responses to clarify the process.
Moving Forward: Measurement and Continuous Improvement
Once implemented, you must measure your process’s outputs at least once per month to ensure it’s producing the desired outputs. Whenever there is a deviation, pause and identify if a human or process error caused it. Processes are living documents that you should revise alongside changes in your organization. Here are some times when you should consider updating your process:
- Your company adopts a new technology.
- You reduce the amount of time or funding allocated to the task.
- The process’s outputs are no longer producing the same value.
- The person completing the process has ideas to improve it.
Remember, if done correctly, process development produces a positive ROI. By following the tips in this article, you can streamline your repeatable tasks and enable your employees to work more efficiently.
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