Processes and procedures – Where do I start?

Processes and procedures – Where do I start?

Processes and procedures are like the brains of a company. They direct how to utilize your resources to accomplish desired outcomes.  They can be the lynch pin that makes or breaks a company.  They wind through every part of a company and are the basis for leveraging the most critical resource most companies have – People.

A succession of clearly defined steps that results in the achievement of a task is known as a procedure. A process, on the other hand, is a set of procedures that show how things work to achieve the outcomes of an objective.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

SOP is one of the more common short hand names for processes and procedures.  They help set the standards for a good business, separating it from an average or poorly operating the business by reducing errors and providing clear direction for everyone in the company. SOP outlines how certain tasks should be performed and provides all of the current knowledge in the organization so the same discovery and learning don’t need to be repeated over and over again.

Having standard procedures in place guides people on how to do a particular action the same way, eliminating chances of mistakes. They make it easier for managers to delegate and provide better training and ownership within everyone’s roles.

Developing Processes

Processes not only define how things should work to keep the business running, but they also define the culture of the company. Processes are developed to bring out the best results in the most efficient way. They use the company’s resources – money, time, materials and labor – in a cost-effective manner to serve the needs of the market. They deliver high-quality service and products using a set of SOPs, which are predictable and easy to follow.

An organization develops its processes either inside-out or outside-in. The former consists of a series of steps designed to meet the company’s goals and objectives, while eliminating unnecessary labor and waste of resources. In contrast to the planned and efficient method, process development from the outside-in is more suited to a dynamic environment. It starts by analyzing and identifying the needs of the market and then working on how to a meet their needs using processes and procedures.

Beginning the creation process with your internal team is often more effective and a good place to start if you already have any existing documentation.

  1. Start with a list of the key processes that can most impact the profit and performance of the company. If you are having a tough time coming up with the list, make a list of everything that did not go right in the past two weeks.  You will start to see a common theme.  Start there.
  2. Which employees make up the process? Whoever is responsible for the tasks within the process is responsible for writing up how they do it.
  3. Once done, bring all of the information together in the right order on paper. Step back, read through it and you will quickly start to see where the issues are.  The team can even have a little fun with it by standing/sitting in order of the process and read through their steps.  It will become very apparent where they missed something, if it doesn’t make sense or there are areas for improvement.  The moment you they are playing musical chairs as they talk through the process, you know you have a problem.
  4. On a smaller scale, you can start with everyone’s roles & responsibilities. Identify the top priorities for each person and make a goal of documenting one a month.  They can have a co-worker double check them by walking through the steps while the other co-worker follows on paper. You find how much was left off of the paper and the co-worker receives some cross training.


Most importantly, don’t forget to ensure everyone is trained on not only the process but where it is kept and how it is updated. Process training of employees helps them better understand how the internal system of the organization works. It is best to first educate them on the procedures, before moving on to processes.  When they are familiar with the significance and impact of each procedure, they increase efficiency and effectiveness resulting in a smooth workflow.

Educating employees on how things work before starting the job eliminates time otherwise spent through trial and error. Productivity is increased when employees are armed with the knowledge of how each method, process, and procedure works.

Explaining the function and role of a procedure in the system as a whole is the best way to teach employees. An easy and effective way to teach the working at different levels of your organization is through pictures and animation.

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