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The easiest ways to capture your processes

by Alison Bradford

So, you’re bought into the fact that you need to have some processes in your business. (If not, check out this earlier blog post)

Maybe you’re looking to get some consistency in your business to save time. Maybe you’re looking to recruit someone and need something to train them from.

The biggest challenge you’re facing right now is where the heck to start!

Let’s keep this simple. Processes can be so easy to make complicated and difficult, so here’s my top tips for getting started and getting some of those processes in your business captured.

1. What are you going to use them for?

Get clear on your objectives before you begin as this may change the way you want to capture them. Is it for training a new member of staff? Putting some consistency in place?

Who is going to be using the processes and what do they need from?

2. Decide on your format

This is where lots of business owners get stuck, particularly if they don’t have experience of documenting them in previous roles. (Personally, I have spent many an hour in workshops with post it notes capturing processes and trying to keep a group of people engaged in it!)

Now, what comes to mind when you think of a process? How does it look to you? Depending on your objectives, it’s really down to you to decide how you want to capture them. There’s no set rules here, unless of course you’re looking to get ISO9001 certification or something (if this doesn’t mean anything to you, you don’t need to know).

Here’s some of my tips to capture them, but feel free to add your own:

  1. Flow charts – these often spring to mind when you think of a process but, these can also be the most off putting to do, and they’re not always very user friendly for training purposes. If you want to do these, and have some experience of doing them, then go ahead. These can be done in specialist software such as MS Visio, or simply in Word or Powerpoint.  The basic principle is that each step of a process goes inside a rectangle box, and each decision goes in a diamond shape box, with all boxes connected by arrows to show the next steps. Flowcharts normally go top to bottom, though they can be done left to right too.
  2. My personal favourite way is using a method from my previous role in Vodafone. You simply put each ‘action’ from a process in a rectangle box, working left to right. Each action will have an input and an output (sometimes more than one), that work through until the end output. Again, these can be done in Word or Powerpoint, or there is specialist software out there, such as Nimbus Control, that you can use.

However, for most business owners, if you are really put off using the 2 methods above, then try one of these options out for ease and usability:

  1. Video it – if you’re capturing a process that you do on a computer then simply video it the next time you do it. How easy is that? You record the steps you’re taking and talk through it at the same time. This can be great for training purposes. I use Jing from Techsmith to record videos on my laptop.
  2. Type it up as set of instructions e.g. step 1 – do this, step 2 – do that, etc. You could even dictate this and get someone else to type it up for you. The easiest way is to dictate it as you are actually doing it.
  3. Take screen prints – again, this only really works if it’s a process you’re doing on a computer, but you can simply take screen prints (I use Jing again to capture shots of my screen) and then either type any additional instructions on them or write them on. These can then easily be stored in lever arch folders for someone to pick up and work from. If it’s not a process you can take screen prints of, then how about taking photos on your phone instead? You can then print these off and use in the same way as screen prints.
  4. Get a specialist in to do them for you – this is a good option if you have lots of processes and need to have them documented quite quickly, or if you do need to have them in a particular format to satisfy an external body of some sort.

The point is, there is no set way for you to document your processes – it’s all about what works for you, and what your objectives are.

3. Get them done, one at a time

Once you’ve decided on your format, you then just need to begin getting them done. It can seem overwhelming and, if you don’t know where to start, then the best place is simply somewhere!

Pick one process and get it done. Don’t overthink it. Start anywhere. Then, one by one, work through them.

Depending on how many you have to do, and how much time you have to spend on this, you may prefer to spend half a day to a day working through them, pick one a week to get done, or anywhere in between!

I’d love to hear any more ideas you have for documenting processes so please leave me a comment to let me know.

Also feel free to ask me any more questions you may have around documenting your processes – you can leave me a comment or email me at Alison@alisonbradford.com

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Alison Bradford

Alison Bradford is a business coach who works with smart, ambitious business owners to get clarity about how they can grow their business and increase profit. Sign up here to learn 6 easy ways you can boost profit in your business today.

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