Over the years, I have worked with a few start-ups and scale-ups, and it is an interesting journey as the business matures. Start-ups are often staffed by extremely intelligent people who are happy to ‘make up the rules’ as they go.
As the business grows, more staff come onboard, and as customers’ expectations form, these companies start to realise the need to deliver a consistent product and service. This requires clear company standards.
How do we set company standards? Often by documenting them in procedures!
I recall one manufacturer where I was helping them with quality management. There was a reluctance by some parties to write procedures, stating “the system is the procedure”.
I agree with this sentiment, yet observed one year later how company standards had dropped, processes were not followed, staff had moved on and customers were not happy. At this point, I suggested they might like to write down a few basic requirements in the form of essential procedures.
In short, for a growing business, documented procedures help:
- Set company standards
- Establish essential processes
- Handover company knowledge
Mature businesses have lots of procedures
Mature businesses grapple with a different problem, particularly larger organisations. They often have a multitude of documented procedures, which can become outdated and therefore not useful. New staff aren’t trained in using the procedure, so local interpretations start to creep in.
The problem here I believe comes from ownership of the procedures. Most people (especially busy managers) have no desire to review and update a procedure. Worse, if they don’t see how their activities fit into the bigger picture, then reviewing one document in isolation may be a waste of time.
Larger organisations need a coordinated effort to review their processes wholistically before they drill down to review their procedures individually. There can be potential double-ups or gaps when a process is carried out across several departments in the business. The benefit of a process review is to identify inefficiencies and improvements first, then plan a targeted approach to update and revise relevant procedures.
Do you have well-documented processes in your business? Are they up to date and up to scratch?