Processes are our deal. It’s what we do.
Unsurprisingly, it’s what our users do too. They use Process Street to manage their internal processes and keep their teams working at maximum efficiency.
In our constant attempt to understand our users’ needs, we asked the community what their biggest pain points were. We wanted to see what obstacles hampered the process management of companies and how we could help them combat that.
Our research across 83 respondents gave us a great deal of insight but one key takeaway stood out:
42% of respondents said they had no time to create processes.
Even worse, a further 54% of those (23% of the total responses) say they are currently taking no steps to remedy this situation!
This post will attempt to tackle this problem and present actionable ways you can ramp up your process production and save yourself time.
The secret to building processes when you don’t have time
The first step is to start. Start with one process.
Start with your most important process
Which process you choose to prioritize depends entirely on you and your business needs.
One rule we use internally at Process Street is to always build a process for any task you do more than twice. Repetitive tasks lend themselves the most to processes as the process will receive regular use and that gives you the opportunity to make the process better each time, bringing your efficiency and quality up.
- Choose a process which is important to your business goals
- This process should be recurring – done on a regular basis, not a one-off task
- Ideally, this process will be done by others on the team, multiplying the benefits.
The more a process fills these requirements, the better a choice it is for immediate documentation.
Let’s look at writing that first process.
Write it down – it doesn’t need to be perfect!
In The Checklist Manifesto, the bible for process adherents like us, former Boeing SOP writer Daniel Boorman gives us his perspective on writing processes:
“Bad checklists are vague and imprecise. They are too long; they are hard to use; they are impractical. They are made by desk jockeys with no awareness of the situations in which they are to be deployed. They treat the people using the tools as dumb and try to spell out every single step. They turn people’s brains off rather than turn them on.”
So how do we avoid this mistake?
Step one: Pick your process.
You need to define what you’re going to map.
Identify one of the key tasks you do on a regular basis which has an impact on the quality of your output.
When I have written this article I will run my pre-publish process to take this from a page with words to a finished blog post. It is mainly a series of non-intensive non-creative steps which I just have to remember to do.
It starts when I’ve written my article and it finishes when I hit publish. That is the scope of the process – what is the scope of yours?
Step two: Record the steps of your process.
You can do this on paper with notes as you go from step to step or task to task.
Alternatively, you can save yourself the time and do it straight away by creating a template in Process Street.
Another possible step is to work through your task as normal while recording your desktop/browser (see our guide here). You can watch the video back later and use Process Street or a note taking app like Workflowy to record the steps you took.
Short notes of the different steps will lay out clearly how the process should be followed. There’s an example of the evolution of a process later in this article to show you exactly how this looks at different stages.
Step 3: Err… well, follow the process.
Right now, you have a documented process. Yes, it’s very rough and won’t remain that way forever but it exists.
That wasn’t so hard, was it?
Effective process documentation in a practical sense is about making processes actionable.
When you’re writing processes, consider these two things:
- Brevity is key.
- Try to start the description of each step with a command.
Pro tip: If you use Process Street to document these workflows, you will immediately have an easily editable template which can be deployed as a checklist across a team.
Run your process and improve it gradually
Now that you’ve built out your process you can move forward to improve it.
A collaborative approach to processes brings together the expertise of the whole team and helps make sure that the processes are suited to the people using them on a day to day level.
If you’ve built your processes in Process Street, you can easily change their structure, make them interactive, and add instructional detail.
To improve the processes, explain to the teams who use them what your aims are in advance. This way, the team can be thinking about possible improvements as they follow the process.
It is important, as Daniel Boorman mentioned above, to make sure your processes are thorough but not overbearing.
You don’t need to block out time in your calendar to improve your processes. Do this instead:
- Run the process. Use the process even if it is very simple.
- Each time you use the process, think of one or two things you could improve.
- Very quickly change those things and get back to your day.
- Spend no more than 5 minutes each time improving the process. Let it improve gradually and iteratively.
The process I’ll use today and its evolution
I’m writing an article right now.
When I have completed the article and have a fully formed draft in front of me, I’ll begin my pre-publish process which prepares my words for publication.
The process, in its infancy, might look like this:
- Record title
- Check for spelling in US English
- Fix text formatting errors
- Cite sources
- Link to relevant articles
- Add images
- Check image tags are keyword
- Use subheadings for clarity
- Double check all links work
- Make sure the post is scannable
- Record keyword
- Check keyword is present in the article
- Add category
- Tag appropriately
- Enter SEO description
- Notify the editor for final review
This is a simple process but one which is easy to follow and helps make sure the work is completed properly.
As you work through this process, you’ll realise that there are a number of things not recorded.
What is the company policy on whether links open in the same tab or a different one? Do we standardize the font we use when we annotate images? What is our preferred image size for the blog style?
Through working within a process you are better able to discern what needs improvement.
As we optimized our blog article pre-publish process, we made one of them live for you and others to use in your business. Look at how this one differs from the rough structure above:
You’ll see that the process overview of the different steps doesn’t look much more complicated than the bulletpoints I included above. However, if you go into each of the tasks you will find extra detail with sub-checklists and form fields.
The process I’ll use today is different again. Continual iteration is the name of the game.
Automate repetitive tasks and unlock your efficiency
Once you have added form fields into your checklists, you can really effectively connect Process Street with Zapier and unleash a world of automated potential.
You will save time and money with workflow automation. But you can only reach this point once you have given up that small amount of time at the beginning to document your processes, even if it’s only a handful of them.
Create a business system which saves you time
You need to take time to document your processes. It’s much easier to do than you think.
It’s about priorities. A quick noting of your process will take you a couple of minutes. An extra few minutes each time you do that task will improve that process over time and you’ll make efficiency savings before you know it.
It is much easier than you think.
Don’t get tied down with Word or Google Docs. Start right, and get a free, dedicated tool like Process Street to document your processes simply and quickly.
What were your experiences of building the first processes for your business? What were your pain points as you were doing it? Let us know in the comments below and we may follow up with you to find out more!