When was the last time you reviewed your business processes and procedures? Often, where small businesses are concerned, processes are less strategy, and more what has evolved holistically as the business grows. But, if you want to scale your business effectively, you need to get a handle on creating an efficient workflow. In this blog, we’ll uncover how to create a workflow for your business, and why you need to.
Why Create a Workflow?
As your business grows, so the challenges seem to increase. You find yourself stretched to breaking point as you navigate all the demands on your time and attention. You grow your team, but that in itself involves more work, and, before long, you feel as though your business is running you, rather than the opposite!
But the key to efficiency in running your organisation comes down to your workflow.; the process by which works gets done. Improve your workflow to improve business efficiency. It’s as simple as that.
Even if you are a micro-business, there will be processes that you employ within your business without giving them much thought. Perhaps around how you deal with an IT issue, maybe around dealing with customer complaints, and, because often these processes evolve in line with your business, without clear intent to create a process, there may be elements of them that potentially overlap and that could also be eliminated.
Similarly, as your business grows, it’s vital that you ensure the processes you have in place grow with you. Some of the biggest hindrances I see with businesses looking to scale come from owners/leaders unwilling to change processes, because “that’s how we’ve always done it.” Whilst existing processes may have worked up to this point, they may not be fit for future purpose and regular evaluation is key.
So, how do you know that it’s time for a system overhaul? Here are 8 clear signs that it’s time to create a workflow in your business.
- Business Growth – If you and your team are “winging it” in certain areas, with everyone approaching a process in their own style, then it’s time to create a workflow and encourage consistency. Perhaps you’re creating or expanding a department, or even extending or launching a new service or product line that requires a different approach to existing offerings.
- Lack of Communication – Are there gaps in the lines of communication within the organisation?
- Negative feedback – if you’re listening to feedback from staff, or indeed customers, who are frustrated with perceived inefficiency, then it’s time to take action.
- Output is dropping – If your output is being affected by something within the business, then it could be a sign there’s an issue with your workflow.
- Paperwork rules – if everywhere you look there is a pile of paper, it’s a sure sign that your processes are still being done manually and therefore more open to human error. Data errors can cost an organisation dearly, so it may be time to look at automating certain areas of your business.
- Work Duplication – Have you lost the “Bird’s eye view” of your business? If there is duplication of tasks from individual team members, then you’re wasting resources.
- Your tech. is outdated – Whilst technology is ever-changing, your outdated version of software could be causing a bottleneck in your processes.
- Departmental Over/Underload – Regular review of your departments can help you see which are working most efficiently, and also those that are not. This allows you to create a workflow to alleviate that chokepoint.
How to Create a Workflow
The good news is that it needn’t be difficult or complicated to create a workflow for your business. Here is the process I use with clients to support them in gaining more efficiency and streamlining their business: –
1.Define current processes.
Before you can improve anything, you need to identify and evaluate what you already have in place. This should involve gaining feedback on any perceived weak points from employees tasked with the day-to-day use of your systems.
The more granular you can be at this stage, the easier your new process will flow. Pay special attention to areas of overlap, where actions are potentially duplicated.
One of the easiest ways for completing this first step is to create a flow chart. This will allow you to easily identify areas for improvement, as well as to share current processes with your team and gain feedback.
2. Create A Draft Workflow.
At this stage, it may be easier to work collaboratively with those responsible for implementing the processes on a day-to-day basis. Again, be as detailed as possible in defining how you would like your workflow to run. This may take several attempts, but this is a necessary part of the process as you drill down into what you need and set about defining what that looks like on a practical level.
3. Test Your New Workflow.
Communicating the need for a new, improved workflow and then implementing it in return for honest feedback will allow your team to “buy-in” to any changes and minimize any resistance to change. It’s likely that there will be some tweaks to be made at this stage, in which case, it’s important to reassess effectiveness and retest.
4. Provide Training.
For this new process to become embedded in your business, it is important to take your team along with you by communicating the need for process improvement as well as giving adequate information on how change has been effected and what that change means to each individual or department. Decide how you are going to roll the revised workflow out – will you do it incrementally, department by department, or company-wide and ensure that you train all team members on new procedures, as well as their roles.
5. Document the Workflow.
Where your aim is to increase efficiency, it’s important that all staff have access to a digital or paper copy of the new workflow. This has several benefits; it makes onboarding of new staff members easy, ensures that your time is protected from any “teething problems” along the way, provides a road map for future improvement, and increases reproducibility.
No matter the size of your business, if you want to ensure you’re working as efficiently as possible, identifying, and optimizing your workflows is key. Whether it’s to determine your HR processes as you grow your team, increase the effectiveness of your customer service, or manage tech issues having a prescribed process in place can give you an advantage over your competitors, and whilst the initial process may take some while to get right, the difference effectual workflows can make to your business can be huge.
I’ve worked with many business owners in supporting them to identify key areas for improvement in their business, to improve their or their team’s performance, or with any of the challenges that business ownership of management throws their way!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, have lost your way, or would just welcome a sounding board or a safe space within which to explore your beliefs and actions, then get in touch.