Tech Tips for Productivity Newsletter
Process variation causes uncertainty in production and delivery which causes inefficiency, creates internal confusion, and ultimately hinders work quality resulting in reduced profit margins.
With standardized internal processes, employees know exactly what to do and how to do it. Additionally, there are a variety of operational benefits that will occur when you begin to standardize your process:
Reduce dependence on specific people doing specific work
Create scalability and eliminate bottlenecks
Eliminate knowledge silos
Mitigate uncertainty in delivery process
Establish baseline standard of excellence for continuous improvement
Operators can benefit from standardizing internal processes with a few simple steps.
The first thing you’ll need to do is implement a technology system to keep track of your process and all of its related information in one place for visibility and organization purposes. Choose the best tool for your business to organize the status, deliverables, and owners for each step of your process.
There are many different tools you can use to organize a process on a day-to-day basis in your business and your choice will be unique to your needs.
For very simple projects, many use spreadsheets which allow them to create custom organizational tools that track everything they need to know about their processes. However, spreadsheets are error-prone, only store text data, and have features that are often too simplistic for a project manager’s needs.
You can invest in free or paid out-of-the-box task management software like Asana, Monday.com, or ClickUp which work great for the task management component of project management. These are great for many use cases, but are also often too restrictive for managers who need a tool to organize an entire operational team beyond just task management.
The third option is a mix of the two – a tool like Airtable that is simple to use and customizable like a spreadsheet to organize all parts of the operational team, but comes pre-built out-of-the-box with features like automation and integration with your other tools, rich data fields that can store complex data like files and images, and built in collaboration features to keep your team on the same page.
If you decide to try implementing Airtable for your operations management, reach out on our website and we can provide more resources to help you in your journey.
Consult with your team at this step to pick the tool that works best for everyone involved.
For the process in question, map the detailed actions (procedures) required today to deliver the desired outcome.
Start with a brain dump of all the actions you take to get the job done in a bullet point list just to get them out of your head and onto paper. Don’t worry about it being a perfectly complete list, you can fill in the gaps later. Also be sure to list who is responsible for that task, whether they represent a certain role type or a department.
Once you have a list that feels like you’ve covered the majority of the tasks required, start mapping your processes in a swimlane workflow diagram.
Create a table with two columns where each row (swimlane) is labeled with a role type or department. The columns will be used as space to map out your process.
Starting at the beginning of the process, organize the steps you listed earlier in chronological order within its corresponding swim lane and connect each step to its subsequent step. Be sure to indicate the decision points and what happens based on each decision.
Once your diagram feels complete, test it by following along with each step of the flow, trying it out yourself according to the directions you’ve listed, and ensuring you reach the end objective of your process without a hitch. Correct the process if necessary.
Now that you have identified the current state of your process, it’s time to improve upon it. The third step is to optimize the procedure and create one ideal future workflow.
Create a copy of your diagram so that you can edit the new process while still referencing the original process when necessary.
Because you have a clear picture of what your process looks like right now, you’ll start to see where the redundancies and inefficiencies take place. Eliminate these time-wasters and reimagine a better version of your process.
Account for the new tool you chose in Step 1 and be sure to include how to interact with that system in order to execute the process.
Schedule time for more feedback and buy in on your process from your team.
Your set of procedures should now feel complete and ready for the final step of documentation. Your next task will be to document your new procedure in detail in a thoroughly-written SOP.
Documentation is the most critical step to standardizing your process as it creates the source of truth which your team will reference in the future to complete the process.
In your SOP, be sure to describe:
What resources and tools you need to complete the process
The list of procedures to follow to complete the process
Additional notes and FAQ that may come up including links to your workflow diagrams
A video walkthrough of the process for visual learners (using Loom)
If multiple roles are responsible for completing the process, separate the action items of your SOP according to each role so that each role can study their responsibilities in a more focused manner.
Be sure to organize these SOPs in a central location that everyone can access. Airtable is a great tool to organize resources like this for your team in one place.
Here's some more in-depth information on How to Write an SOP.
Release your new process into the wild.
It’s easy for people to fall back into old habits if they don’t see the importance of your process changes. At first you and your people may be a bit resistant to change, but if you do a thorough job of involving every relevant stakeholder as you optimize your process, they will understand that these changes are being made to benefit the team.
Meet with your team again to clearly share the new expectations around your process. Be sure everyone understands the benefits of working in this new way because you all need to row in the same direction to make these changes work.
Be a thoughtful and compassionate leader, but hold your ground and your team will thank you down the line when they see the positive effects of standardized operational processes in their day-to-day-work.
We help teams design solutions to organize their business data and operations to save them time, money, and effort daily.
Simplify And Automate Business Processes
Develop a system with us to streamline your work delivery timelines by simplifying standard processes and deploying automation to offload manual, repetitive workflows.
Integrate Separated Data Sources and Systems
Establish an integrated "source-of-truth" with dashboards that provide visibility over your operations instead of relying on inefficient, disconnected tools that obscure your work in a black box.
Lean On World-Class Technical Support
Trust a dedicated delivery team of managers, designers, and builders to design and develop your product, with support included well beyond your project end date.
Build Bridges Between Internal Departments
Eliminate stagnant information flow and miscommunication between internal teams by designing a system to support your unique workflows with your SOPs baked in.
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