When you go out for a gourmet meal you probably wear something that allows for a little expansion. The same idea applies to business processes; you need to plan for growth and be responsive to change says process consultant Joanna Strahan
Let us begin by defining what a process is.
A process is a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a task or goal. Processes
can be as simple as how to answer the phone when a customer call or a detailed written
procedure with several hold points or approvals needed along the way.
In order to achieve your vision, you will have a set of core processes that help you to deliver
your products or services.
There are usually three main reasons for companies outgrowing their processes. Let me
share these with some solutions.
1) Not setting core processes initially:
Imagine brewing a new beer. If you don’t follow the 10 key stages of the brewing process,
the product won’t taste great If you’re lucky and create the perfect beer but don’t record
what you did, you won’t be able to recreate it.
From the start, be clear what the process is, and record it. This means you can repeat it, and
as your team expands, others can also repeat it.
2) Putting clients’ needs above your own:
Imagine baking affordable artisan bread. Initially, sales are excellent. Then requests start for
gluten-free, seeded toppings etc. Should you adapt your recipe to satisfy these requests? Do
they fit the original vision?
Listening to customers is important, but you also need to consider your own needs/business
vision. Trying to suit everyone will almost certainly result in a process that no longer works
and an unsatisfactory product.
However, there may be requests worth incorporating. Customer feedback can help gauge
how and when to expand the business. But before doing this, ensure the changes fit into
your core process.
3) Creating a tick box process to suit others:
Some companies want or need accreditations or certifications, for example, ISO9001, to
compete in a market. They write a procedure that ticks the boxes for each requirement but
is not created holistically and doesn’t align to the core process. People perceive it as a bolt-on task – not something that’s essential or needs proper care and attention, so it is
Processes should be designed to align with the core processes so that all aspects and
activities are considered to be part of the job the person does.
If you do not want to outgrow your processes you will need to create an agile and
This requires joined-up thinking and collaborative working, being open to change and
empowering your teams to be creative and to make change happen.
A good way to build this culture is through Process Working Groups. These groups are given
responsibility for setting the process, reviewing its successes and looking for improvements.
Members of these groups should be selected, not only for their knowledge and
understanding of the current process, but for their energy, their edge, their ability to
enthuse others and their capacity to get the job done.
The working group should be focussed on the bigger picture and must be open to feedback.
It needs to be objective when reviewing the success of the process. Remember things
change, processes grow and evolve and sometimes things just don’t work out how you
would have wanted them to. Do not see these as failures, instead view them as lessons to
learn from and improve.
The working groups should also be involved in the initial implementation and will need to be
a constant champion for the new process. Communicating the change and the reasons for it
is key. People should know why they are doing something, not just what they need to do.
For some people, performance reviews and audits can be a stressful part of their job.
As a business owner or manager, if you want to keep your processes agile and responsive
you will need to change this perception. You need to know that the work is being done and
the processes are being followed, but equally, you don’t want your team so stressed that
they turn each process into a tick box just to be sure they can get through the performance
One way to help reduce the stress is to ensure the team understands that the review is also
about the process itself – not just the person carrying it out. This more holistic approach
allows you to complete process-based auditing (checking that the process is effective and
efficient) and avoid the ‘tick box’ mentality.
Process audits should look at:
The purpose of the process
What business objective is it supporting?
Is it managing the risk and exploiting the opportunities?
Is it achieving its purpose? or
Are there barriers, blockers or waste in the process?
These audits must be an honest reflection of the process and be carried out independently
of anyone who’s part of the task/project or the process working group.
The feedback from these audits along with any other performance measures should go to
the Process Working Group for review. The auditor and working group should agree on any
corrective actions needed and identify any changes or improvements to the process.
I hope this summary will help you manage your core processes, aligning them with business