If you have a recurring activity you have a process. When you mow your lawn, do the dishes, or even pay your bills, you use a process to do the job consistently and correctly. These routine activities are pretty straight forward for most people. It would seem ridiculous to spend time documenting these processes.
Some processes are more critical. If you will suffer negative consequences if the process is not completed correctly and you are sometimes inconsistent, then the process is pretty critical. To improve your accuracy, consider documenting you process.
I have a few processes I consider to be critical. One of which is submitting expense invoices for the clients I work with. There is risk of mishaps like including not including a receipt or mis-calculating the total. My risk is my reputation for being easy to work with and for submitting inaccurate accounting.
To combat this risk I created a process to make sure my accuracy and consistency so that I don’t make these mistakes.
To document my process, I use a simple process flow diagram. There is no need to get overly complex. I use the following shapes when creating a simple diagram:
- Start / End “○” are is exactly what they sound like. This is what starts the process and what determines the end of the process.
- Action or Input “□” is any part of the process where you perform an action or input information.
- Decision “◊” is when parts of the process need a decision. From the decision box usually two options (yes/no, true/false, go/no go) flow out based on the decision. If necessary, more than two can flow out of a decision box. Only one line ever flows in to a decision box.
- Lines “→” are the connectors between the process parts. I use lines with arrows to show the direction of the flow. The flow of the process should be like water that flows downstream. The flow (or water) can only flow one direction never forward and backward on the same connecting line.
Once the process has been documented, refine it each time you use it. Consider it never to be done. With your documented process you now have something to share with others. It should be easy to describe for anyone reviewing it. Ask for feedback so that you can make improvements.
The next post will show the expense invoice process flow I created as an example of creating a simple process flow.
What processes have you documented?
How has documenting a process helped you become more consistent and correct?