How to get your work processes streamlined without sacrificing quality

Every business must deal with delivering values to the market, and serve the needs of other people, either as individuals or as part of a business.

The best way to do that is to view your business as a machine, and a lot has been written about that already (the system, the goal, the book from the guy with the hat about managers and working on the business etc). In different ways, these great authors point to similar outcomes, create work processes, and do not work without a plan.

Where it gets complicated is when you go to implement things, because it can be a struggle looking to streamline and optimise business processes and yet retain quality of output.

The four characteristics of well structured work processes

We have worked with a lot of different clients in many industries over the years and one thing keeps coming back as a recurring pattern - there are 4 major characteristics of well structured work processes.

These are:
  1. Clear
  2. Actionable
  3. Repeatable
  4. Fully thought through

Clear work process

This means to make sure that the process that people are to follow is simple, straightforward and unambiguous. In other words, you can go from one step to the next with ease, and without having to answer a tonne of questions in your mind before you can move on.

There is a great way to try out each process for clarity - give it to somebody not familiar with the business and ask them to run through it and ask you what’s unclear or what they have questions about.

Some of their questions might be what you cover under assumed knowledge in your business, industry or your employee training, but others will be very useful things to ponder about and fix in your work processes, to enhance clarity.

Actionable work process

The “steps” you want people to follow need to be actionable. This boils down to having instant clarity on who needs to do the step, when and how. Also the step needs to have a clear, binary outcome. It’s either done, or not done. And this is where we see a lot of businesses struggle. Thinking is the hardest work humans do after all, and some subconsciously or otherwise, we tend to avoid it. People write work processes that read like “draft response” instead of “send response”, or consider options for engagement instead of engage. You need to make sure that as your team works through a work process they can almost literally tick off each step as either done as they move forward.

Repeatable work process

This is a big one, because it trips people in two different ways. A repeatable process is one you can run through over and over again, and it will give you the same or a very similar result. It also means that you can have many people run the same process and they’ll get the same result, or at least very similar ones.

Where we see people trip up on this one is by making work processes super complicated, trying to have one process that caters for all possible outcomes. And this makes sense, but it’s best to divide and conquer (complexity).

Create as many work processes as you need for each of the the things your team is expected to deliver, and then have them select the most appropriate one in each case, where variation in steps is required.

This gives you a bunch of smaller, easier to understand and maintain processes instead of a one mega complicated one that you’re scared of updating from fear of introducing mistakes (yes we’ve seen entrepreneurs have that problem too!)

Fully thought through work process

This means to have spent the time to think through not just the obvious forward-path through the process.

Let’s take a trivia but well understood example - making a cup of tea - you boil the water, you put it in a cup, you add your team, wait, remove your team and then drink (optionally add a sweetener of sorts). That’s all well and good, until you got to do it, and there is no water in the jug - so you have to get it filled up. Or you’re out of tea bags on the counter and you need to go get some more from the pantry. Or your cups are all dirty and you need to get one of them washed up quickly so you can use it.

You see, there is the obvious forward-process that most people have no issue with - and then there are the what-if’s that come up. So a fully thought through work process needs to cover them off also.

Bringing it all together 

You, of course, already worked out that it’s necessary to include the how to do all the what-if steps here, you can simply refer people to a simple work process that’s already documented. Because washing a cup to make tea or coffee in it makes no difference, so you can just let them to know to go wash the cup and come back to continue.

Hopefully you have seen here that if you built work processes with the four key attributes and qualities in mind, you’ll end up with vastly superior processes over time. You’ll have a happier team, and you’ll have so much more work done with quality that will frankly amaze you.

If you wondered where you should keep your work processes, your standard operating procedures and related information - Thanexa is what we use, and we’ve built it to help businesses like yours.

Streamline Your Work Process Without Sacrificing Quality.


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