Tips for writing an effective process flow
This article has taken inspiration and direct quotes from the recent Best Practice Webinar presented by our CEO, Kobi Simmat, which can be viewed here.
Today we’re going to work on getting you more comfortable with creating a process flow for your own business, and one of the best analogies we’ve got in this context is to imagine a world map before you’re heading off on an around the globe trip. You’re going to point out your destination on the world map, then look to another map to see the states or provinces, and then move to a more local map to see where your hotel is, or where the beach is; the same applies when we’re talking about layers mapping your process flow.
We’ve got to start up the highest level, and most organisations - even nonprofits and charities - start with marketing. Then, we move to sales, production – or operations – and then finance. At a high level, every organisation will have these are key high level processes. Depending on your business model, the finance stage may come earlier, but overall this is applicable across every industry. The first step is to get your high level map: imagine you were giving someone a tour of the business, where you can say: “this is our marketing, these are our operations, and this is our finance department.” Talking about this more specific to the ISO standards, we’ve got the model of inputs and outputs.
Understand your customer’s needs, say what you do, do what you say, prove it and improve it!
Map out those inputs, as well as the consequential outputs. A tip here is to talk to the head of that high level sector – be it finance, sales, marketing or your operations – and ask them what are the most important things to remember for this next project. You’re unpacking the methodology of your operations, the inputs and outputs, and your process flow should start to reflect the key steps and controls toward providing a finished product or service. The best analogy I’ve got in this context is the celebrity chef industry, and their cookbooks. They’ve got a photo of the finished product, a simple methodology, and a set of the ingredients. So your ingredients are your inputs, the methodology describes the process and the photo of the finished product is the output. So I challenge you to have a think about:
“What does the cookbook for your organisation look like?”
In this clip Kobi works through some examples provided by attendees of the live webinar across the publishing, aged-care and youth programs, solar power, debt-collection, medical and manufacturing industries. This highlights the need to understand that while the specific process steps may change from industry to industry, the fact remains that you need to have a clear outline of what those high level processes are, what they do, and what falls under their inputs and desired outputs.
An important thing to consider, particularly in personalised service industries that require some emotional intelligence, setting up an ‘avatar’ to represent how different personality types move through each step of the process. At Best Practice, we’ve got Trevor and Theresa, we ask ourselves on a regular basis: “What would they think about this? Would they be happier with this change, or be worse off?” Thinking of your processes using empathy through Trevor’s perspective will help you unpack the process flow as a whole, with the added bonus that it’s from a client’s perspective.
Remember to keep your organisation’s ‘why’ as a central theme of your operations. Now, pivot to your internal operations. For each of the boxes, categories, sub-categories in your process flow, it’s important to ask things like: “Who’s responsible, what are they doing? when are they doing it, how are they going to do it?” These are great prompts to both inspire and integrate into your plan. More specifically in the context of the process flow, at Best Practice, we’ll identify who is responsible for certain steps in our process flow. We’ll draw a line and determine who is responsible for which steps, and that will help you overlay responsibilities on top of your process flow. There’s no need to pay for expensive software, Microsoft word and powerpoint are enough; the simpler you can make your process flow, the better.