At Admin Slayer, we’re pretty nerdy about creating written processes. To us, the idea of a written process is not only good, it’s necessary. However, so often when we suggest that a written process be created, we get push back.
Why would you need to write down something so obvious?
This sounds like a make-work project.
But I’m creating something unique, and special, each and every time.
Here’s the thing:
It’s not obvious. No one is born knowing how to use a specific system, language, or tool. Even if you grew up in the same culture, during the same time period, with the same access to information (and this is unlikely in any situation), it’s not automatic that a certain thing is known.
Through a written process, you can ensure that the individual steps which mean so much to you, but may not be fully understood by everyone else, never get missed. It also gives you the ability to write down the “why” - and if people understand why they’re doing something, they’re more likely to do it consistently, and to do it well. It allows you to review the process regularly, make revisions and updates that reflect the changes in your business, and have those changes implemented successfully afterwards, without it taking up extra brain space and time that you don’t have.
Even if you’re creating something special each and every time, there are always some pieces that are the same over and over again. For anyone working in a consulting or advisory role, you know that the first time you speak with a prospective client, you’re going through the same motions to organize a time and place, and you’re asking similar questions. The actions that follow that discussion are usually the same as well, even if the content is different. You can still create something unique and special, while having a process you can rely upon without having to think about it - which frees you up to concentrate your brainpower more fully on the creative side.
Everyone gets frustrated spending time training and delegating. We just want stuff to work. Bringing on new team members takes time, effort, and money. Written processes won’t avoid that lag entirely, but it’ll sure increase the speed at which your new team members get comfortable.
How to Create a Process
Choose a concrete task, one that you do over and over again. As an easy example, it may be that first contact with a prospective client.
As you complete the task, document every single thing you do. Write down things like:
Reply via email
And include your actual reply (with names scrubbed). This can, in the future, be used to create a template. Templates are lovely because you can just fill in some specific information, but leave the rest the same. If you send a lot of emails, you’ll find this to be a huge time-saver.
Add to calendar
Yes, even this. Include the specific information you may include, such as travel time to the location, whether it’s a phone call, videoconference or in-person meeting, the name of the individual and the type of meeting you’re having. Indicating the type of meeting you’re having can be a useful way to track your productivity in the future - you could pull a report of how many “discovery” meetings you had in a particular time period, and then how many contracts were signed - and determine your ratio, which can then inform how many discovery meetings you need to have in order to meet your goals.
Add task to send courtesy reminder
We love courtesy reminders around here. You never know what’s happening in someone else’s calendar, and with the onslaught of information that people send and receive daily, it’s easy for a meeting to get lost in the shuffle. A courtesy reminder is a professional way of ensuring that your prospective client knows where they’re meeting you and when, even if they booked that meeting weeks ago. Adding a reminder to your (or your virtual assistant’s) task list ensures that the task is completed on time, and in the way you wish.
While you are documenting your activities, imagine that the reader is not you. Imagine that you are writing this down for a robot. The robot does not know anything that you do not clearly state in the written document. It has to be so easy that someone who has never met you or seen your system could complete it.
Include samples, directions to the location of certain types of information (such as your calendar, your CRM system, your cloud based file folders), and even screenshots of what it should look like. Add arrows and highlight the most important bits. Imagine you’re talking someone through this, and they need to see what you are seeing.
Try to imagine all the ways that someone could complete that task incorrectly. What could go wrong? Be specific about what should not be done (example: Do NOT call clients by their first name. Instead call them “Mr” or “Ms”) in addition to what should be done.
Once complete, ask someone else to do a test run with your procedure. Ask them to write down any questions or struggles they may have encountered while completing the process. Incorporate your answers into the document.
Store your processes where your team can access them on a daily basis, and review them regularly. Each time you ask for something different, your team should be asking:
Is this an update to the existing process?
Is this a new process for which I should create a written document?
Make it part of your ongoing work that you review processes regularly. Create a spreadsheet of all your existing processes, by type (with links to the written document). Put them on review rotation, so that at least once a month, a new set of eyes is on the process, and as a team, you consider whether each continues to be useful, effective, correct, and relevant.
Not sure how to get started? Yes, we do that.