STORY INLINE POST
This year marks my 15th anniversary as a working professional. In most of the companies I have collaborated with, I have done something related to processes definition, sometimes for projects that were just beginning, having to identify them in projects that were already running, or even having to create methodologies after having executed the same type of project several times. Although my first 10 years of experience were very focused on marketing, the identification of key activities and milestones is something that I have easily transferred to other areas of business, which has opened up opportunities for me in other fields.
Something that has surprised me during my career is the high number of companies that operate without defined processes, relying solely on the accumulated experience of their employees and the assumption that those employees will pass their knowledge to new members. On many occasions, businesses start with a person or group of people who are experts in satisfying some specific needs and who, as they generate sales, add hands to help them in different areas and pass their responsibilities to these new hands, sometimes just verbally or through a couple of sessions. In several of those cases, problems arise, such as the fact that when a key element of the team leaves, the continuity of the tasks carried out, clients, contacts, and even the operability of entire areas can be lost; or, there are team members who suffer from high attrition because they are the only ones who can carry out certain tasks and, therefore, cannot take vacations or days off. Neither scenario is recommended for companies.
Today, after almost three years of being 100 percent focused on operations, I couldn't be more convinced of the importance of having defined processes for the success and growth of a company. Processes help with business continuity, facilitate the continuous evaluation of the business, help identify areas of opportunity and the generation of efficiencies, facilitate the communication of objectives and allow projects, areas and, in general, businesses to be replicated and scaled.
In recent months, many companies around the world have had to reduce the number of people they operate with and many others are seeking to do more without increasing the number of resources they have. Having clearly defined, easy to communicate, documented and easily replicable processes will be essential for those who want to make their operations more efficient or seek to grow their business in the most efficient way.
Processes and Efficiency
Defining processes allows companies to identify the intermediate steps between what they currently have and what they’re willing to get as their final goal, as well as the tools and resources that will be necessary, the deliverables that they need to ensure along the way, and the metrics that will allow them to identify when they have achieved their goal.
Just like sharing a dinner recipe, defining processes will allow companies to "share" in a more specific way what they want their teams to achieve and, because it is described as a series of steps, it will make it easier to be repeated multiple times, making the process replicable and the results more consistent, making it easier to detect possible failures along the way and giving them the possibility to identify the segments that can be automated.
By carrying out the same task on multiple occasions, the different teams at your company will become increasingly efficient and for those who lead it, it will be easier to find opportunities for adjustment and collaboration with other areas.
Processes and Business Continuity
Working with processes is not only about defining them; communicating, documenting and maintaining that documentation will be equally important aspects, especially when looking for continuity in the business.
Business continuity refers to the level of readiness a company has to maintain essential functions after an interruption or crisis. As I mentioned in the previous section, the repeated execution of the same process will allow the identification of possible errors or risks in it. Once they are identified, alternatives must be sought for their solution or prevention and they must be attached to the original documentation of the processes.
One “risk” I like to plan for whenever I'm in charge of a team is: “What happens if one person leaves the team?” This can happen for a number of reasons (from resignation to illnesses or personal situations that cause them to suddenly leave the business). To be prepared, I recommend establishing a contingency plan that allows other members of the team to carry out the basic tasks performed by that person and to have a series of parameters that allow them to make decisions or “unblock” processes that could depend on this person, always considering the security of the business.
Knowing, identifying and being prepared for risks is the best way to guarantee the continuity of the operation for our clients or business partners.
Processes and Growth
A company that has clear objectives, as well as control and order in the steps it is taking to achieve them, that has identified its risks and is prepared to face them, has all the potential to grow and scale its business.
Although each new project, branch or area of your business will bring with it new challenges, having an operation that works and of which you have total control will allow you to identify possibilities for maneuvering and sections that you can replicate to support the new tasks.
I’ll close this article by reminding you that, in addition to the operational benefits, having defined processes can also help improve organizational culture, as it will allow you to more clearly define the objectives and metrics of each member of your team, an aspect that has proven to be among the most important for those who collaborate within a company or project.