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Create Consistency through Processes

Monte Wyatt & Brad Sugars, Aug 08, 2019

Most of us like to be surprised when we see a magic act. How will the magician wow us with sleight-of-hand?

But in the real world, surprises arent much fun. Such as when your favorite restaurant changes hands and the food isnt as good as it used to be. You don't want surprises in business.

That's why it's important to implement the Discipline of Execution, which leads to consistency through the components of process, management and financial controls. Many businesses do the same-old, same-old every day, but there's still a general lack of consistency in businesses. There's a difference between tired routine and ongoing consistency.

That is why you need strong processes in place to ensure consistency between team members, departments, and divisions. Processes provides familiarity and a level of assurance that you have your act together, that you're in control, and that you're dependable.

Without documented processes in place, a business relies entirely on the skills of the team members who produce the best work. If workers have varying degrees of ability, the company delivers a varying quality of product. It also means a loss of the most skilled workers could lead to the loss of whatever customers the company has managed to satisfy.

Instead of relying on workers alone, businesses need to rely on maximizing outcomes by following proven processes.

A process is a sequence of interdependent and linked procedures which, at every stage, consume one or more resources and convert them into outputs. The resources include employee time, energy, machines and money. The inputs include data, material, parts, and the like. These outputs then serve as inputs for the next stage until a known goal or result is reached.

Processes free our mind for deeper thinking. Some 80% of what we do every single day is routine. It's the other 20% that requires deeper thinking and problem-solving. The best approach is solve every problem with a process. When there is a problem the quickest way to ensure it doesn’t occur again is to create a process that will proactively correct it.

Many companies believe that they have processes in place because they work through a series of steps through force of mental habit. That is to say: This happens, then this happens, then we get those results.

But this is a schedule. It's not a process. A process has clear, documented steps. It has clear expectations of what the results of each step should look like. This is so that everyone knows when it's time to move on to the next step, and what the entire process looks like when it's complete. These processes help train your people, create efficiencies in your time and resources and help you duplicate best practices.

Here is how to document a process in four steps.

  • First, It's crucial to get a thorough understanding of how things are being done today, from corporate routines to individual responsibilities. If you need to, you can have someone write the steps down as they watch the person performing the task, or have the person that is performing the task write the steps down as they complete them.
  • Second, evaluate the steps, to make sure they cover everything that needs to be accomplished. Edit as needed, adding, adjusting, or subtracting as you see fit.
  • Third, to test the newly developed steps and expected outcomes. Bring together the team members who are responsible for performing the process that you're working on. Discuss your testing and what steps need to change in your process, and the outcomes that they need to achieve. Have team members use the process exactly as written. Then test the new process with a few people for two to four weeks. At the end of that period, take note of any adjustments you may need to make.
  • Fourth, after the test period, implement your notes, one at a time. Observe the impact, if any, that this has on the process and its outcomes. Once you've made the necessary adjustments, train the rest of the responsible team in the new process.

Now that the process has a set list of steps and expectations, consistency depends on team members following the process.

Checking off each step as it's completed means there is accountability. For example, did the process fail for some unknown reason, or because someone didn't do what they were supposed to do? In a process where different people perform each step, a checklist enables you to determine where the problem occurred.

Without using definitive checkpoints to ensure conformity, different people will do different things on different days. If a process is not written down it will be deviated from. If the process isn't written down, it doesn't exist.

Any given business probably has between six and 12 primary processes. Typical financial processes take care of payroll, accounts receivable and accounts payable. There should be processes for sales, for marketing, for fulfillment, talent-management, and manufacturing. Each step of each process requires a responsible person who ensures that the procedure is followed, is on schedule, and is completed to the correct standard.

In your company, do these vital processes have a documented flow-chart or checklist that ensures consistency and responsibility or do they depend on the habits of the employees who carry them out?

Your company may have its ways of doing things that developed in the early days when routines grew out of necessity. That may have worked then, but it's time to look for better ways.

We'd love to hear from you. What area in your organization needs more consistency? Thank you for sharing.