Here at Scholes HQ we are big fans of the benefits of process mapping to small businesses.
In my last article I spoke about process mapping in quite broad terms; today let's look at the topic in more detail.
A good way to think of your business is as a series of activities, each one serving some purpose in pursuit of the organisation's overall aims. These activities are what we mean when we refer to "processes".
Most business processes will include three features: some sort of 'input'; some sort of transformational activity; some sort of 'output'. Think of the lifecycle of a butterfly; from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly; hopefully you get the picture!
All the various processes within your business should ultimately serve, in one way or another, the aims of the business. Process mapping, then, is simply about looking at what you do in your business, in a methodical, critically constructive way.
Probably the best way to try this is to enlist the help of someone who has process mapping experience. But if you can't wait to start, here are a few suggestions...
Let's assume there are no activities going on in your business that serve no obvious purpose (if there are, you really need to question why!). The first step is to identify a process you want to examine.
The following is often best done as a team exercise with the people who are directly involved in the process under review.
Write down what the objective of the process is.
Then, map out each step in the process on a piece of paper, from left to right. Using Post-it notes is a good way to go, one for each step.
Once you have mapped out the process with Post-it notes, underneath each step, write down how long the step takes.
Once you've done this, stand back - take a moment! - then consider whether each step you have noted adds some sort of value to the overall objective. Assuming the step is necessary, reflect on whether it could be done in a different/ better way.
By including your team in the process mapping exercise, you might be surprised at how things actually work in your business, and at the scope there may be to do things in a different/ better way.
Even very small businesses can rapidly evolve quite complex ways of doing things - what starts out as a simple activity can grow arms and legs at an alarming rate, before you know it there are all sorts of inefficiencies!
If, having mapped and analysed your processes you find no scope to improve things, at least you will get some peace of mind that you are already doing a really great job!