There’s a lot of information out there about the importance of creating workflows and documenting processes. Process outlines and checklists are incredibly important for cross training, consistent and accurate service, reducing error, and continuous improvement. A lot of smart folks are giving great advice on the subject, but it can also be intimidating. For many situations the methods they provide for documentation is overkill. You don’t have to be a Six Sigma Black Belt to articulate a process or create a useful checklist. Here’s a really easy way to at least get you started.

  1. Write out the triggering event — This is the thing that starts the whole process rolling—a customer orders an item, the boss requests a report, a client walks in the door, etc.
  2. Write out the final successful outcome — The end of the process when you can call it complete—a customer receives the order, the boss gets the report, the client walks into her appointment, etc.
  3. Write out the first thing that must be done after the triggering event — The very first thing you have to do after the triggering event to get the process rolling.
  4. Write out the last thing that has to be done before the successful outcome — Your final action before the process is complete.
  5. Fill in two to six actions that must be done in between —  You’ll need to spend some time thinking about these. These are the broad strokes. The things that are critical to the process, but not all the granular stuff that might or could happen.

You will be able to completely document every single process conceivable in this way.

Just kidding. Of course you won’t. Don’t be ridiculous. But it will help a lot of people get what they do out of their heads so they can check their effectiveness, let their boss and coworkers know how they do their job, and create a record for succession planning. The hardest part is figuring out those broad middle steps.

This is not one of those complex flow charts with scores of if-then scenarios. If you need to do one of those later, this will help you get there, but this isn’t that. This is great for creating checklists or simplified workflows. Here are some examples of where it will help:

  • When you’re out of the office, someone else can step in to take over
  • When you’re first learning a process and you need to remember the critical steps
  • When it’s imperative to get the process right every single time

Atul Gawande’s book Checklist Manifesto shows just how powerful creating checklists can be. It can save money, improve engagement, and save lives. It’s a big return for just a little investment.

Try it. It could have a tremendous positive impact on how you get things done.

Talk to me.

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