Improving My Business – The Small Business Challenge Part 6

Improving My Business – The Small Business Challenge Part 6
Monday, April 30th, 2012 Scott Bossart

                Last week I talked about making linkages between each component within the organization.  This is important to insure you have considered all facets required to complete a product or service.  As I stated before, this process often times leads business owners to determine components that were previously not considered as a stand-alone component.  Focusing on each one as its own entity has set the stage for our next step…work flow.  After work flow is complete, we will dig into the process flow.  Work flow maps out what components are required before others to achieve a final product or service.  Process flows dictate how something is to be completed and provides replication to ensure consistency and will reach varying levels of detail.

                Often times more than not, work flow through the organization is assumed as a no brainer and common sense.  Undocumented work flow however, becomes risky and allows for missed steps, disorganization, and lost efficiencies resulting in increased costs.  Work flow is not the HOW things get completed, but the WHAT is completed and the order required to produce a final product or service.  If you performed a thorough progression of identifying the components and each component’s linkage, this step should be fairly easy.  Examples of work flow for fabrication could be some material sizing before bender or break.  Then the weld shop is required before the finishing or coating department.  For a residential project, an example of a work flow might be to subfloor before tile or grout before trim.  Basically you are taking the puzzle piece components that you determined previously and are linking them together in the proper order.  Some of these can become quite complex depending on the product or service you are focusing on.  Documented work flow must be completed for each and every product or service that is provided.  In some cases multiple work flows should be considered and developed if differing variations exist in the final product or service.  Again, this is nothing more than assembling the previously determined components in an order that is required to see a final output.  Documenting work flow is important to ensure integrity of the product or service that is being provided.

                Once the work flow is determined, developed, and documented, the actual process of accomplishing the work can be determined.  Process flows represent the actual detailed steps required to complete a product or service.  It provides the HOW in developing a final product or service.  Process flows ensure replication and consistency.  Process flows include question boxes requiring separate paths for separate answers as well as details on each step required for completion and each activity.  In some cases, the answer to a question box may lead to a separate process.  The level of detail for each process developed will depend on the complexity of the product or service as well as the risk involved for consistent replication.  I find many companies assume all employees and departments know the process involved for a product or service and feel it unnecessary to develop a specific process flow.  For those folks, when they progress through even the most basic of processes, it becomes apparent very quickly that not everyone is working on the same path for completing a product or service.  Don’t assume even though everyone within your organization is on the same page for reaching an end result.  This is not an insult to anyone’s intelligence, skill set, or abilities.  It is ensuring the thought pattern for completing something is fully understood and exactly the same.  This becomes even more apparent when an inconsistency or problem arises.  If we use the same examples from above, the process for fabricating something will include major steps such as size the material according to specifications and then ask a question if bending or breaking is required.  The process flow will include other details such as inspection steps for the proper material cuts followed by question and answer paths.  Each path indicates what the next step is regarding what the answer was.  Some paths will lead to another process.  Process flows require focused time and energy and a full concerted effort to complete properly.

                Work flows and process flows are vital steps of organizing and ensuring there maintains a focus to the organization.  These documents are required for everyone in the organization to know and understand if consistency and replication if expected.  They take time and a lot of effort to develop and document will not only bring structure and foundation to the work force and organization as a whole, but will also raise the business to a level required for expansion and growth.  And yes, I’ve heard it before…’We just get work done, we don’t need all that stuff’…if you consider how many times mistakes are made and the missed opportunities in projects, then associate the costs, you will find the time for structure will far outweigh the effort.

Stay Well

Scott B.


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