The word ‘Process’ has a lot of negative connotations – ‘boring’, ‘time wasting’, ‘pointless box ticking’, ‘unnecessary’, ‘incomprehensible’, ‘bureaucratic’ etc. Yet few can argue but that good processes are a hallmark of all successful enterprises.
Smart process is about getting it right, in the most efficient way, first time, 100% of the time. It is smart processes and checklists (a particular sub set of process) that has made flying as a mode of transport so much safer now than 50 years ago.
The following are my suggested tips for developing smart processes :
- Document what is done, with input from all stakeholders, and hold a workshop(s) to agree on best practice. All that can possibly go wrong needs to be tabled as part of these discussions.
- If it is a simple process documenting the step by step approach will be enough.
- If it is a complicated process involving many people, teams and expert inputs it is critical that there are built in ‘pauses’ at key decision points for communication/ agreement with key stakeholders.
- Develop standard checklists to cover all critical ‘What If’ scenarios, so that it is clear what steps are to to taken if all does not go according to plan.
- Getting buy in from the leader and key stakeholders is critical. They need to understand that having expertise is not enough – need checks to ensure all aspects of best practice are consistently applied in practise.
- Appoint a named individual who is accountable for ensuring that the process is followed in each area where the process is applicable. This is not necessarily the most senior person on the team, but the individual(s) need to have full authority to enforce process compliance.
- Push problems out to where they are best solved, not everything is best resolved at the centre. Local knowledge and creativity may be key to coming up with optimal solutions.
- It is unlikely that the first draft of a process will be the final. Assume that revision after a trial period will be required. Build this into the process development plan.
- Mistakes are most likely to arise where employees are working under stress, or there are tight deadlines, or high risks of unanticipated problems. These areas should be prioritised for process development.
- Checklists should be simple, practical and concise (max 5 /10 points). It may take many iterations to get this right. Some will be READ – DO (follow step by step) and others READ – CONFIRM (assurance that best practice was followed, before sign off).
- Processes should be subject to periodic review or anytime things don’t go according to plan. Swiftly incorporating lessons learned into the process preserves the credibility of the process. There should be a process owner appointed for this purpose.
Finally, having quality operating procedures makes an enterprise less dependent on particular individuals and more saleable. Due diligence as part of the purchase of a business will invariable look at the quality of documented processes and operating procedures.