Processes: The Good, The Bad and The “What Were You Thinking?”

Processes are an essential part of running an effective business. I’m pretty sure that’s something that every business owner knows. I mean, how else do employees know how to do repetitive tasks consistently? Are they left to just figure it out on their own? If so, there goes that whole consistency thing you were shooting for.

Unfortunately, small business owners very often don’t have any of their processes documented. The story normally goes, “Oh, they know what they’re doing, they’ve been doing it for years, and if they don’t know, they just ask me.” This can be incredibly disruptive if (for whatever reason) an employee is temporarily or permanently gone. The result is either the owner taking time away from other tasks to show someone how to do it, it’s done wrong or it’s not done at all.

I’m sure everyone will agree that having no processes is a bad thing, but can you have too many processes or can processes make your business less efficient? I recently worked with a company that’s been in the Fortune 500 for 20+ years, and let me tell you, having processes CAN be a bad thing! I’ll give you an example: to get one invoice signed required the document to be emailed four times, printed, signed and scanned three times and even required an in person visit to the client. Seriously? Have they never heard of DocuSign? This falls into the “What were you thinking?” category. They had created so many steps that it caused the employees to be frustrated and took valuable time; therefore, reducing efficiency and diminishing employee moral. When you match that with the hundreds of invoices they had signed daily, you’re talking about serious money being thrown away and employees willing to leave at the drop of a dime! The point here is that over-processing things can be just as detrimental to your business as having no processes at all.

To put it simply, processes are good, having none is bad, and over-processing is a recipe for irritated and less productive employees. Your goal should be to have set, simple processes in place for all of your repetitive tasks. They create organization wide cohesion, increase efficiency and help make sure things are done correctly. In addition, they facilitate smooth training of new employees and make filling in for those absent seamless. It’s just that simple, and after all, your goal is to become a more effective CEO, right?

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