Processes and Procedures – Putting the Puzzle Together
When Interim Operations Executive, Felda Looper, helps companies, she is often helping the team map out and improve their processes and procedures in a very short period of time.
One example of helping with processes and procedures is an organization that had had some turnover in the past couple of years and was struggling with on-boarding, training, and inconsistencies with how it was operating.
One of the biggest challenges with this was the lack of documentation of the company’s processes and procedures. Because there was no manual, walking into the company was like walking blind. The company was operating, but the absence of information and mapping of processes and procedures had left everybody to figure it out on their own. It was like asking someone to operate a large piece of equipment without a user manual or training.
Felda stepped in and took the first couple of weeks to find out what the greatest issues were and how everything was connected. According to her, finding little or no operating procedures in place was the first smack in the face that there were issues because without well-defined processes and procedures, you’re “building your plane as you’re flying it.”
In a very short period of time, she was able to help them document and improve about 40 processes and procedures. We asked her what technique she used that was so effective in doing that in such a short period of time.
Get the Puzzle Right
Felda’s starting point was the job descriptions. Leadership shouldn’t assume that everybody in the organization knows how to do everything in their job description, and that they understand how their description fits into the whole picture. It similar to giving someone a puzzle to finish without all pieces nor a picture for reference.
Felda began her project by mapping each of the processes and procedures with the process owners. By constructing a map on a paper on the wall, she was able to easily walk right through all the processes with the help of everybody involved in the organization.
“It’s amazing how many people have their hands into each process,” she said. “When I got them into the room to map the processes, they were not on the same page with each other on how things are done. The common storyline was ‘Well this happens, well no that happens first and then this happens.’ It’s amazing to see the transformation as we talk through it.”
Save Time by Giving Time
At the end of the first session, they had a standard operating procedure in place that everybody could agree on. Having an open dialogue also helped everybody understand how the process works and what each person was responsible for within it. Putting in that little bit of time to contribute made the team understand how the company operated and how much time they could save. Felda that they were very enthusiastic and jumped right in.
One of the forty processes and procedures she mapped was a process for procurement and payment. Felda said they were able to save at least 35-40% of time by making some changes in their IT and within the actual process itself.
That was just one process. “The time and money saved with each one becomes cumulative across an organization when you make each of those processes efficient. That starts to add up. It’s truly amazing especially when they’re daily processes. And the great thing is they’re scalable as the company grows,” said Felda.
Objectivity Lies in the Solution
Being a CEO or a business owner, you might think you know your business best, and you most probably do, but you can’t be objective about your work. Sitting on the inside makes you blind to pain points causing problems that are oftentimes pretty obvious to an outsider.
“If you’re sitting in the forest and can’t see the trees because you have zero objectivity about what you do, then that’s when you need somebody from the outside to come in and help you have some objectivity about what your problems are and how to deal with them,” said Felda.
As a business owner, it’s easy to become myopic and assume that you know your company best. Thinking that you’re the best person to solve the problem can actually turn out to be very counter-intuitive to what reality ends up being.
Listen to Your Team
Business owners can stay ahead of business issues by keeping a finger on the pulse of the organization. Felda advises being really sensitive and tuned in to what’s working and what isn’t working. Have faith in your directors and managers to be able to tell you the truth about where the problems are.
“If you aren’t getting the feedback from your leadership team, then you don’t know if all is OK. They are holding back. Worst case, there are problems and they don’t realize it. So I think that listening to your team, wondering if they like coming to work is important.” said Felda.
She recommends being just as open to receiving feedback as you are to asking questions. Some team members might be reluctant to voice their concerns, but good leaders create an environment where you are accessible and approachable.
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