Help Your Team Do It Right, Every Time
Recently a client told me how much time she’s been spending on certain administrative tasks. When I asked why her assistant isn’t doing these for her, she threw up her hands. “She just messes it up, and then it takes me longer to fix it.”
I could certainly relate to this frustration. It can seem futile to delegate things; they often don’t get done how I want them. And I don’t want bad results to go out to clients or partners. But I realized that, as long as I didn’t delegate, I was holding my business back from growing much beyond what I could personally handle.
What I’ve found over the years, and learned from experiences at larger, well-oiled companies, is that there’s a lot of skill to successful delegation. Effective managers learn and practice these skills, and come to find that they can get more consistent (and consistently good) results from their team.
Managing Repeated Tasks
Businesses are built on many repeated tasks. If these tasks are not done consistently, and in a certain way, it can negatively affect customer relationships, employee productivity, profitability, etc. Imagine if Best Buy didn’t have a consistent way to process returns. Money may not be refunded to credit cards, inventory may be lost, and customers would likely be very frustrated. But how does Best Buy train thousands of employees to handle returns effectively?
The answer for big companies and small ones is by creating and documenting “processes.” A process, in business parlance, is a written description of a repeated task, with the goal of making it efficient to reproduce with correct outcomes.
A process resembles a cooking recipe, with some added sections. It’s valuable for any task that will be repeated frequently, and especially so if the task is carried out by multiple people. Having the process helps provide consistency, efficiency, and quality. It also makes it easy to train new people, either when employees leave or when the team grows.
A word of warning. Creating a process will take more time than just doing the task or fixing it yourself. It is an investment that, when done well, will save you and your team tons of time in the long run. And it will free up your company for rapid growth!
Components of a Successful Process
Here are the four components I recommend for a successful process.
1. Inputs Needed
What ingredients are needed to do this task correctly? Information from certain people? Access to certain resources (computers, vendors, etc.)? Also, what triggers the beginning of this process?
2. Step-by-Step Instructions
Create a step-by-step list of the actions required to get a great outcome from this process. It helps to be as descriptive as possible, and minimize abstractions. For example, instead of “file these papers in the correct folder,” you may want to explicitly explain how to find the correct folder for the particular subject.
3. How to Check It’s Done Correctly
Did you ever have an employee bring something to you, and you could immediately see that it wasn’t right, but they didn’t realize it? This is where you list the criteria you use to assess the final product, so the person can check for themselves whether it turned out correctly. List the common things that could go wrong and typical warning signs, along with how to address each one.
4. Approvals Needed
Does the person need to get the supervisor’s approval before sending this to the client? List any checks and approvals here.
Example: Process for Making Grilled Cheese
- 2 slices sourdough
- 5 slices cheddar, 1/8″ thick
- 1 oz butter
- small pan
- Butter one side of each slice of bread
- Place bread face-down on pan
How to check it’s done correctly
- Cheese is fully melted
- Bread is golden brown (not black)
Sous-chef must get approval from head chef before sending to customer
How to Create Your Processes
Yes, creating these is an investment of time. The good news is that I recommend you delegate creating process documents to the employee or contractor who will be performing it. Not only does this get it off of your plate, but the document will typically be more effective. They will write it from their perspective, using their words, and it will likely make more sense to them (and to the next person in that role) than your words.
Have them draft one process, review it with them, and give them feedback. It may take some iteration. Also, a process is never really “done.” It’s normal for it to evolve over time. Perhaps some details were omitted, or a special case was overlooked. Someone will realize in the future and update it. Also, the nature of the process will evolve over time as the business evolves.
Store your process documents in a central location where all relevant employees, contractors, or vendors can access them. This way everyone can use them when needed, and they can update them when needed. If you reside in a physical office, a designated filing cabinet works well. If you have a virtual team, create a folder on Dropbox, Google Drive, or a similar system.
Share Your Thoughts
What repeated tasks will you & your team create process documents for? What have you found effective in creating processes? Post your thoughts in the section below!