There are times, when dealing with different situations in business, when I remind myself that patience is a virtue. I ran into one of those times this past week, though I will not release any names in order to protect the guilty! In this case, not only is patience a virtue, but the creation and maintenance of effective, efficient, repeatable and most of all, documented processes could have saved a large amount of virtue expended on my part!
Whether your business is large or small, when you reinvent the wheel with every new business opportunity, you are wasting precious resources. Even worse, when process is informal and undocumented, you could be wasting the precious time of a client or a vendor. This is essentially what happened to me. Had I known what was expected of me when interacting with this vendor, we could have been much more efficient. Imagine what might have happened if vendor employees had known what to do as well.
The first quality of a good business process is to be effective. In other words, the process is intended to accomplish something specific and is designed to do so. Forgive the old adage, but is you don’t know where you are going, you are very likely to wind up there! When designing process, always begin with the end in mind, and be certain through testing that the process actually accomplishes what is intended.
The second quality of a good business process is to be efficient. This means that the process should only include only those inputs, outputs and steps that are absolutely necessary to accomplish the end in mind. Many of us have a natural tendency towards complexity and we must resist at all costs. When you are creating business process, ask at each step along the way, “Is this really necessary?” Think of the other person, be they client or vendor, carrying out the process; will they be muttering under their breath as to why they must perform this action?
The third quality of a good business process is to be repeatable. As mentioned above, the height of inefficiency is to do the same thing a different way every time (or was that insanity?). A process that is repeatable will gradually build up a body of experience that will help to increase efficiency and reduce performance time.
The fourth quality of a good business process is to be documented. What others don’t know they cannot follow! If a process lives only in someone’s mind, then there will be a constant battle to get the process done well. Of course, there are those who would like to preserve there position by keeping control, but that rarely works in the long run.
A final lesson here: a truly agile business will also have a process that handles exceptions to the rule. When an effective, efficient, repeatable and documented process produces an unexpected result, business agility requires that another process be available to handle the exception.
These simple, common sense ideas can keep all of us from expending too much of the virtue of patience!
Kevin Callahan was named the COO’s Bulldog by one of his clients for being tenacious in tracking down and eliminating problems. The COO’s Bulldog attained his gray hair the old fashioned way; he earned it!