It can be a very fine line, getting the balance right between having enough processes within your business to ensure it runs smoothly, while not adding so many that it becomes a bureaucracy that would make even the government blush.
The case for having processes in your business
We employ staff, we don’t employ robots (yet… but that’s a topic for another day). However, this fact means that the way staff do things in your business is open to their individual interpretation or personal bias.
Activities within your business can be completed very differently depending on the person doing them. Some staff deliver services with their own individual flair, which is great, but there also needs to be a level of consistency.
A lack of articulated or documented processes in your business can lead to your team relying solely on their own judgment.
This may not always be highly informed; it may not take into consideration the big picture and is very prone to being siloed.
Imagine if everyone carried out services or general work differently, at varying levels of efficiency, or skill, or attention to detail… it can quickly become anarchy. Image flying with the same airline, in the same country, on the same route, and receiving two very different levels of service. You might love it! Or you might feel lost. In the worst case, you may take your business elsewhere.
The case for processes is that they provide a consistent, repeatable and transferable way of doing things in your business. They can drive sustainability, productivity, efficiency, compliance and transparency.
When implemented in the right balance, processes can increase your employee satisfaction levels and customer satisfaction scores… keep in mind, though, at the right level. Go too far and it’s a very different story.
Five core processes of small business
While in an agile, start-up business environment, having little process can be very beneficial. It can help the business to be nimble, scrappy and innovative. But, once your business gets to a certain size, you need processes.
There are five core areas where processes can be essential for small business, these are:
— Sales and marketing
— Accounting and technology
— Quality assurance in product or service delivery
— Management, HR and finance
— Product development
These are the essentials but you can build from there.
The issues with too many processes in your business
What about the other side of the coin, if processes are so beneficial, why don’t we just process-ise everything?
And we return to the robots… in the situation of having too many processes in your business, it can completely take away the individualism of your team. Just following through the process step by step. Follow the bouncing ball, don’t deviate in the slightest from the set path.
It doesn’t sound very engaging and certainly not the kind of environment that will push your staff to achieve their best or innovate.
It will deliver a very consistent service and experience, but it can take the personality out of your business and services. And also, a little bit of the enjoyment out of the interaction. Once again, this can impact both your staff and your customer satisfaction levels.
Going overboard with processes can lead to a complete standstill in your business. Slowing down the speed at which you can move. It can seem to take forever to achieve anything.
Think of our friends in Government as examples. Have you tried to deal with certain Government departments lately?
It can seem like they’re making you do things in a specific way, or jump through hoops for no apparent reason, just because they can. There seems to be no value in the way things are done or some of the processes followed.
That’s too much process.
So, where are you?
Where on the process spectrum does your business sit?
Is it closer to a start-up, with controlled anarchy in the best-case scenario, or undeniably chaotic and ‘fend for yourself’ in the worst-case scenario?
Is it closer to Government, with strict processes that eliminate the need to think and react? With processes implemented whether or not they add benefit or efficiency, not because they add value?
That’s a question only you can answer.
And the best balance?
Well, this will vary depending on your business. Your business’s size. Where your business is in its life cycle. Your products or services and your industry.
Walking the fine line between having enough process to ensure efficient and consistent services or products, without going to the extreme of being a bureaucracy where people don’t think, or question is very tough.
If you have too few processes in your business, you’ll have many ways of doing the same thing, some efficient and some not. You’ll get varying results from activities carried out, which will depend on the process used.
It can lead to conflict, as staff can argue over who has a better way of doing things. And the situation can easily descend from there, to the point that the business is conflicted and can become paralyzed in inefficiency.
The best place to start is implementing the five key processes, measure the results of these in your business, and use these as a guide to finding your right balance.
The best way to tell if you have reached your process balance?
Your products, services or the way you do things are consistent, repeatable and transferable.
Your business is productive, efficient, compliant and transparent.
Your staff aren’t weighed down unnecessarily by non-valuable activities.
And most importantly, there’s a logical reason behind why you do what you do and you’re willing to review and change when needed.
Constant measurement and tracking are key. Get in touch with your staff, particularly those on the front-line. Ask their views. They’ll be a valuable guide to achieving and maintaining the right balance.
By using these tools, you’ll find the right balance.