How to Standardize Your Operation

Is your business operating as effectively and efficiently as you need it to be? Probably not, and the reason may very well be that you lack procedures and systems to conduct your daily operations.

Every task that is completed needs to be standardized and, more importantly, written down. Without written operating procedures you invite inefficiencies which is costly to your business in terms of labor costs, productivity, and overall profitability. Let’s use an example, you have two different people performing the same task but you don’t have standardized written procedures. It is likely that each of these two individuals may have their own way of performing this same task. One individual may be performing the task in a way that causes extra work down the road, such as having to issue credit memos, which could create customer service issues if this happens frequently. It also creates a problem where additional work will have to be done to correct the error.

The other individual in this scenario may not be confident in how to perform the task and take a lot longer in completing it. This creates a productivity issue because the costs for that employee will be higher because of the amount of time it takes them to finish that same task.

Both of these individuals’ actions are creating inefficiencies but don’t blame them. If you do not have proper procedures and systems in place, the fault lies with management.

By establishing, recording, and implementing standardized, written procedures and then properly training your staff on them you are taking many of the judgment calls that are responsible for ineffective and inefficient practices.

Every task that is completed within your operation should be committed to paper by the people who are actually performing the task. Ask each staff member, in every department, to provide you with a detailed set of instructions for each task they perform. Yes, this will take time but you won’t be asking them to stop doing their jobs to provide you with these instructions. Have them take an hour out of each day for a week or two and you should have what you need. You will be saving more time in the future by standardizing your operation than the time you are losing by having this task completed.

Then each step should be analyzed to determine why that step is being completed and if it is the most efficient way of doing so. Ask yourself if someone else be performing that step? Does that step provide value to your customers or your operation? Does that step even need to be completed? If it does, can it be automated? Ask your staff for suggestions, chances are they have many. After all, they are the ones in the trenches every day doing these jobs. Some steps are just essential and nothing should be changed but others that provide no value may be able to be scrapped making your process that much more efficient.

Once you have gone through the previous process and identified what is essential and what is not, review to see where you can actually add value into the process. Make sure that your procedures are aligned with your strategic objectives and that your staff understands how their completion of these tasks affects their department and other departments. Think about where you want your business to be 2, 3, 5 years down the road and add only the steps that will provide value to your customers and your operation. Run these ideas by your staff for their thoughts. Make changes as necessary to fine-tune the process.

Once this has been completed, you should be confident that you have defined best practices for your business to achieve its goals. Create an official operating manual containing these newly-revised, or perhaps newly-created, procedures and release the manual. Store it where your entire team has access to it. At the bare minimum upload it to Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or you could go so far as to use a service like Trainual.

Then train your existing staff on these new procedures. Since you have worked with them throughout this process to determine best practices you should have little to no backlash. The intent was to streamline the operation and help your staff better understand why they do what they do. When the time comes for you to bring in new hires, you will be training them with well-polished procedures that get the job done, cut out inefficiencies, and improve productivity. These will have a positive impact on your bottom line.

Taking the time to standardize your operating procedures by asking questions, working with your staff to determine best practices, implementing a standard operating procedure manual and training program will pay huge dividends to your operation. Having an informed staff that knows exactly what they need to do and how to do it will put your business on a steeper trajectory and put you a step ahead of your competition.

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