PROCESSES: Write the Manual that will set you free.

As I’ve shared in my last blog Processes – Part 1, a company cannot scale up without sound processes in place. Creating processes is important. Documenting them is even more critical.
 
What every successful company has - and what every wanna-be-great company needs - is a manual. A go-to document that lists every critical function needed to run the company. Or in engineering-speak, a group of specific Standard Operating Procedures (SOP's).
 
It’s not easy.  In fact, it’s down right hard, time consuming and…totally worth it. The key is to get started. Here’s how:
 
1.  Divide your company into its major departments (sales, marketing, human resources, production, supply chain, operations, etc…) and have them do this exercise as a team.
 
2.  Have each team make a list of the tasks needed to run the department effectively.
-  Encourage them to look at a typical week for the day-to-day tasks
-  Then have them look at the calendar for what happens on a monthly, quarterly, annual or even seasonal basis
 
This outline will act as your guide to ensure you do not miss any of the tasks as you start to write the manual.
 
3. Start documenting.  Look at every process ­– from beginning to end – and identify problems with the output. This is a perfect opportunity to determine what’s truly working, what’s not, correct it and test it again. The very act of documenting will naturally improve the whole process.
 
As the teams begin, share these key tenents to developing good processes:

  • A clear focus on the needs of the customer
  • Identification of the purpose and direction
  • Involvement of the people using and affected by the processes
  • A systematic approach that considers each process within the larger organization
  • Fact-based decision making
  • Continuous improvement

 
4. Test and refine  Now, give the SOP to someone else to read and execute. This will ensure that each step is clear and concise, but includes enough detail that anyone can follow the instructions. This provides valuable actual user feedback. If there are steps they could not complete, did not understand or were overstated, the team can rework until the process hums along like a  well-oiled machine.
 
There you are. You now have a manual in every department of the company.  And you hold the master collection of SOP's in your hand.  It is the key needed to unlock your company’s scalability.
 
Notice I did not say you are done. This document is never truly ‘done’. Think “work in progress” or “continuous improvement” instead.
 
Over time, the manual will need to be revised - tasks updated, added, deleted - as technology evolves, as the company evolves.
 
Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits and Scaling Up, says it best, “Processes are like garages and hallway closets, which become messed up over time and require regular attention. It’s advisable to take the one process per quarter that seems the most dysfunctional and clean it up.”
 
So get that manual written!  It’s your company’s ticket to scalability and the key to freeing you from the business.