It happened again. As I was talking with Don, a business owner, I mentioned the importance of creating systems and documentation for his business. Don responded the way many small business owners do, he tried to not roll his eyes as he attempted to change the topic. I could almost hear him thinking to himself, "Bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo." However, I took a few minutes and elaborated for Don's - and his company's - benefit.
Developing Systems by identifying and then documenting the critical processes and procedures within your company is crucial. It is one of the most under-valued but important tools in helping you transform your business from a job that provides you with an income to a stand-alone, sellable business - that's worth more than you may realize.
How can this be? Well it's really rather straight forward and simple in its concept, but like most things of value, it's not easy to do. It takes time, focus, and input from everyone in the organization. But it is do-able. So let's review how you do it and the value it can generate for your business.
Identify the critical processes.
Have every employee (and yes I do mean every employee) identify the top five tasks they do or responsibilities they have that are critical to production, customer service, business operations, etc. (This is especially important if only one person knows how to do a specific task! If more than one employee does the same task, have one of the employees select another task to document.) Then have each employee write down a step-by-step checklist or procedural outline of how they do each of those five critical tasks. Have each employee document with enough detail so that if a new employee were to walk in the door tomorrow s/he could pick up the list and at least do the basics of the task. You want that much detail.
Identify the best practices.
Have all employees who do the same tasks, review and discuss the processes as documented to identify if they all do the task the same way. If so, great. If not, why not? What is the best way to do each task and why? Have the team debate this and you also get involved if need be. The objective is to identify the best practice for each task or process - and then document it.
Realign position responsibilities.
Separate and realign position responsibilities if needed to reflect the newly identified best practice procedures.
Store all procedures.
Create a knowledge warehouse on your organization's server or locate the newly documented systems in some other easy-to-access location. Ensure all staff can refer to the necessary procedures as needed.
Enhance efficiencies and cross-train.
Use the documented procedures to train staff on the newly identified best practices. Also, take the time to cross-train staff on critical processes to ensure that the work can continue to flow as employees take vacations or transition to new positions.
Continue to develop the talent and skills of all employees by regularly asking them to review and debate their current best practices. They'll continue to think about efficiencies, problem-solving, and working together. They'll become more productive, more independent, and more engaged in helping you grow your business.
So how will this help you raise the value of your company? By getting the information out of people's minds and documented within a knowledge warehouse, you create another tangible asset your company has available to sell along with its equipment, facilities, etc. You've got a talented workforce with a documented, turn-key way of running your business. Now that's valuable!