It is not enough to do things well; you must do well those things that take you towards your goal. Efficient people do things right, but effective people do the right things right, at the right time.
Efficiency is an internal measure – how well you do what you do. Effectiveness is an external measure – how well what you do meets the needs of who you are doing it for. The key to effective operations and to consistently achieving your goals is to develop, document and implement repeatable, scalable and teachable processes. This is especially true when a team of people have to interact to accomplish a task.
For example, when a sailboat changes direction relative to the wind, known as a tack, hundreds of square yards of sail stretched along one side of the boat has to move across the boat’s front end and get trimmed in along the other side. During a race, this happens within a few seconds. The only way a boat can smoothly and effectively tack is when everyone involved is working together and following a common process.
Whether process creation is called systematizing, Lean or Six Sigma, the result is a defined series of interrelated actions performed to turn inputs into outputs in pursuit of a goal. The process may be, for example, the steps to follow when manufacturing a widget. It could also be the steps involved when filling a widget order, producing a creative product, or delivering a service. By developing and documenting your processes, you identify and define the right things that need to be done, how, by whom, where and when. The why is quantifiable, desirable business outcomes, such as:
- Consistent, predictable output.
- Improved customer satisfaction.
- Increased productivity.
- Operating cost reductions and revenue increases.
- Efficient resource utilization.
- Easier knowledge transfer; integration of new team members faster.
- Reduced chaos.
- Enhanced organizational agility enabling greater responsiveness to changing business circumstances.
How to design processes
Management guru Peter Drucker said, “No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.” Strive to design and document each process step so it can be performed by someone with the lowest necessary skill level. And then design the overall process to be open and agile enough to respond to the changing needs of the market and your clients.
“Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away…” Antoine de Saint-Exupry (1900-1944), French aviator, writer. Wind, Sand, and Stars, page 42.
Below we outline a 9-step process for developing your processes. Process development requires time, effort and collaboration. It even requires some chenilles processionnaires inspiration. But companies with defined and documented repeatable processes have a higher success rate. And as an added benefit, having documented processes increases your business’s sale value.
Start with the critical work processes essential to your business operations. Then move on to other challenging areas, such as: where people make mistakes often, areas with inconsistent results, or activities on which you’re spending the most time or resources. Prioritize process development opportunities by determining the ease of implementation and the potential payoff from process development. Look for those that will yield the largest payoff with the least effort.