The Add-Water-And-Stir Approach to Process Design
[This is a blog post I wrote for financial advisors, but I thought it was applicabile to a broader audience of entrepreneurs, so here it is.]
I coach a group of financial advisors (FAs) that recently joined forces and became a team. One of their challenges is that they are pretty light on documented processes. Last week the team enrolled a new client with about $1 million in assets, and it set off a bit of a scramble. Who’s doing the account transfer? Who’s got the onboarding planned? Who’s going to review the first statement with the client?
This fire-drill does not scale.
The good news is that process sounds complex but isn’t. The problem is that a lot of time can pass between the moment managers realize they need a process and the time they actually write one down and implement it. A lot of trouble can happen between those two end-points.
If you knew you could design a great process for anything in your business in under an hour, would you do it? Of course you would. So here’s the Add-Water-and-Stir approach to designing a process. But before that, remember a few things:
· The process you design in an hour will be ready to go immediately, and can be modified as you go. Don’t worry about getting everything perfect.
· If you have a whiteboard, use it for process design.
· Get all the people together who have a role to play in the process, so you don’t leave out anything important.
Now you’re ready:
· Write down all the steps, in linear order, that are involved in the process you want to document. There should be around seven steps in your process. If you have two steps, it’s part of another process; if you have 12, there are steps that can be consolidated and are in fact sub-processes.
· Each process step should have a clear input and an output, that leads logically from one process step to the next; in order to accomplish a step of your process, you need information or some deliverable (input) and you are going to do something with that information that makes the next step of the process possible (output).
· Get buy-in from your workgroup that the process makes sense and can be followed easily.
· Cross-train your team members in the process so everyone understands everyone else’s role.
· Review the process periodically for potential improvement.
Steps 1-3 should take no more than an hour. (Use a timer.) So whatever part of your business you need a process for, you can do it in an hour and dramatically improve your efficiency.