All companies have certain procedures they follow in order to operate. The real questions isn’t if they have them, but are they organized and if they are organized at what level? I am not a big proponent of writing up reams of paper with procedures in it. In larger companies this sometimes is needed but in reality very few people are going to take the time to read them all. However, the larger you get the more you’ll need to do things like this to keep people straight. You’ll need to make the call on when you need to start that procedure as this article isn’t going to get into any time tables.
What I want to discuss is the importance of procedures and the importance that everyone within the company (including the owner) follows those procedures.
The first step in deciding how important a procedure is, is whether or not its a good procedure. Does it save time or insure the proper collection of data or is it something that serves no real purpose. Things change in a business from week to week and a constant review of your procedures will insure that you’re always operating at the highest level possible. Don’t be like the government and keep reams and reams of manuals that were written way back in the 30’s just because you have them. If they don’t make sense chunk them.
Include your employees when you’re making up procedures. This is a very important step that will help to get them involved in making sure they follow them. Obviously after they are made up, the new employees won’t have been involved in their creation, but that first step will help them as well. The people doing the certain type of work generally have a different perspective on what they can do and what they can’t. At least listening to their point of view will help things along.
In the end there has to be a decision maker. Someone that can see into the future a bit to decide intelligently whether a certain flow makes since or not. Does it add to the bottom line or are we collecting data we’ll never use? Make the decision and then follow through with it. Check in from time to time on the employees to make sure they don’t deviate from it. All of us are like children, you give them an inch and next thing you know we’ve forgotten there ever was a procedure and we have everyone doing different things.
As an example I’ll describe just one procedure we have here at nizeX and how it has influenced the flow of information between us and our customers. When we first creating our first CRM system about 17 years ago, we tracked customers and we tried to log calls, but we didn’t always do it, because it took a few extra minutes per call. Then we realized that this information was invaluable for a number of reason and we really wanted to make sure we kept it. So we laid down a procedure and came up with a short slogan to drive the point home: “If it isn’t logged it didn’t happen”.
This might sound a bit goofy but when an employee would come in complaining about a customer or started remarking about a phone call and management couldn’t find the call, the employee would be sent back without further discussion. To management the system didn’t happen. After a while everyone got the point and we now log 100% of our phone calls. Even I log all my calls, because to me its stupid for me to complain to someone else about something I don’t do myself. It also sets a bad precedent with the employees and gives them an excuse if they neglect to do it themselves.
The point is, if you set procedures, make sure everyone follows them. EVERYONE!
So in reality there is no business that could ever function without procedures. Realizing this and actually considering what they are will force you to make sure they make sense. It will also help you with hiring new employees and will make them more relaxed when starting because they know exactly what is expected. Just don’t go crazy making them so complicated that no one can keep up.