What does your company know about its business process?

A local business owner was concerned about the amount of energy that he and his organization were using to “get the job done!” The owner had made a conscious decision to hire younger people with little to no business experience into key positions. His intent was to mold them to fit his business model. However, as I continued my investigation he was not using any structured method, materials or mentoring to transfer knowledge of the company business process to them.

Documented operating procedures were few to non-existent and those that were in place were dated and had not been reviewed for current compliance. As I pursued this line of questioning the owner began to realize that his expectation of hiring “good” people that would understand intuitively what to do to run the business was unrealistic. While he had “intuitively” learned the business when he started, he now realized that the people he had hired did not have the attributes and desire to rise to this level of performance.

Given the absence of written procedures I suggested that a quick way to get everyone on the same page was to graphically illustrate in a flowchart format how the various operations of the company were connected from a responsibility and transaction point of view. The owner agreed and we conducted a number of two hour sessions where we flowcharted the business from the origin of an order to the acceptance of the final deliverable, customer acceptance and payment. The process resulted in a number of occasions where the owner did not know how the company performed a function and who was primarily responsible for it. When complete the flowchart was almost five feet long.

The flowchart process was very productive for the owner for it clearly revealed where he was of most value but also where he spent most of his time. His high value contribution was sales and project engineering but the majority of his high stress moments were when he was involved in “expediting” or “crisis managing” the operations of the company where he had the inexperienced and uninformed employees. He clearly saw that he needed to spend the majority of his time at the left of the flowchart in sales and project engineering and develop his operations people to be able to deliver projects without his micro-oversight and crisis intervention when a customer called about a problem.

I produced the business flowchart on glossy paper and the owner had it framed and mounted in an area where he could explain it to his employees. He was particularly careful to let his senior people know where he would be focusing his time on the business and now with clear definition of the business process where he wanted them to take responsibility and perform.

The benefits of this exercise were not long in coming as employees began to understand what their area of responsibility was, what the primary/secondary roles were, and what they knew could be expected of them and more importantly what they could expect of others. The crisis level dropped significantly and over a period of a year the business productivity rose dramatically.

Another byproduct of the process was a revision of the hiring practices to recruit people with appropriate experience that could add value to the business and company culture. Companies expect to train new employees but companies should also expect new employees to contribute knowledge or expertise and quickly be a producer and not be a burden on the resources of the company.

Investigate what your employees are using to guide their activities, make sure everyone has a clear understanding of what should be expected of them and what they can expect of others and hire people that can contribute and grow and not just float along.

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