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We’ve already discussed writing policies and procedures and reviewing them. Now let’s talk about doing something with them.
Too many companies look at procedure documentation as a necessary evil. They look at business as a number of tasks and events; sometimes those events and tasks are connected, but many times they’re not. In these cases, the process – and the procedure that’s supposed to describe it – are two different things. In other words, there’s “what we say” and there’s “what we do”.
You’ll enjoy greater success if you look at your business procedures like you look at everything else you do — as an opportunity for improvement. To make sure you do, always keep the following concepts in mind:
1. Be sure your process objectives are reasonable. As I’ve often said and will continue to say because it bears repeating — nothing does more harm than having unreasonable expectations.
2. Be sure that as you’re developing your procedures, you have all stakeholders involved from start to finish. Do you know who the stakeholders are? Yes, the customers are, ultimately, but there are others.
3. Be sure that everyone — not just the people who are responsible for executing your policies and procedure, but those at both ends of the process, too — understands the importance of the procedure to the success of the company and have bought into that.
4. Train people on the procedure before you officially implement it. Do as many “dry runs” as are necessary; once is never enough.
5. Execute the procedure faithfully. Don’t do only those parts of the procedure that make sense to you. Don’t take shortcuts.
6. As you’re executing, be sure to monitor & measure the process. You can’t improve a procedure if you don’t have data.
7. Do something with your data — don’t just look at them and say, “Oh, that’s interesting.” What is so interesting about the data? Do you see outliers and trends in the data? Do they make you want to take action? Do you know what’s normal and what isn’t? Continually reevaluate your objectives.
8. Review your procedures periodically. Things are not always what they seem. Different people see things differently. Don’t wait for problems to occur — assume they will and head them off.
9. Revise and retrain. No procedure should be considered “set in stone”. Internal and external forces are continually changing. Either you see change as a normal part of doing business or you don’t see it until it’s too late. If you’re ready for change, it’s much easier to deal with. Revise procedures and retrain continually, in small increments.
10. Always think proactively. What’s better, to be active or passive in the business world? (It’s a rhetorical question — we all know active is better, right?)
Don’t sit on your laurels. Just because you’ve implemented your procedures doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back and take it easy. (Well, maybe you can for a moment, but don’t get too comfortable.) The business world, like time, waits for no one.