If It’s Not a Process, It’s a Problem

All the activity in our businesses can be classified as either a process or a problem. If you have an activity that is not a process and you don’t think it is a problem, just wait. I promise it will eventually become a problem. For purposes of this article (and any discussion of business processes) a process is a documented, repeatable series of steps necessary to deliver an output. Activities that are performed randomly by different people are a problem. And yes, this is true even if you have a small team of exceptional performers. There is still room for creativity but it must be within the bounds of what the customer desires. Offer a starving man a Picasso and he will not be happy.

It is a problem (although one that can remain hidden) when an experienced employee is solely responsible for an activity that they have performed consistently at a high level if that activity is not documented. The activity is “repeatable” only if that employee performs it. If for any reason that employee is unavailable to perform the activity, the activity is not repeatable if it has not been documented. If, as a business owner, you have the operating manual for everyone and everything “in your head,” it is not documented.

The benefits of having processes are not limited to the ability of a business to deliver consistent performance to its customers. If you plan to exit your business (and you will exit your business at some point either voluntarily or involuntarily), you will take much of the value with you if you have not established processes for all your business activities. It does not matter how profitable your business is, a buyer will not pay for that income stream if you cannot provide them with the processes that delivered that value. If your involvement is necessary you don’t own a marketable business, you own a job.

Processes are only a starting point. Having processes for all activities does not guarantee high business performance. Those processes must be effective and efficient. More to come on that in the future. Get started today on eliminating some problems by turning your current activities into processes.