Month: August 2014

Why Businesses Need Processes

Processes are essential to preparing your organization for growth. No large organizations would exist without them, and there’s no reason why your small organization shouldn’t convert all of its work into processes. Your work should consists of processes where possible.

But why do businesses need processes? This post is my answer to that question.

Processes Eliminate Two Key HR Issues

The biggest benefit of processes, in my mind, is that they can drive a stake through the heart of two major HR problems:

  • The Key Employee Problem
  • The Specialized Knowledge Problem (Reinventing the Wheel)

The Key Employee Problem is a major concern for small organizations.  What happens when Joe, a key employee in one area of your organization, departs suddenly? Joe was the one person who knew exactly how to handle his responsibilities and no one else in the organization knows exactly how he did it. How do you possibly fill that void?

Office circus scene with caption: Productivity is down but everyone is busy; maybe we just need to hire more people.To answer this question, I’m going to borrow a metaphor from Jim Collins’ Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies:

Joe is a time-teller. Once Joe is gone, no one else knows how to tell time, and this leaves your organization vulnerable to the key employee problem. Rather than have Joe tell time until the day he decides to leave, have him build a clock instead. This is where processes come into play.  Processes are one crucial part of building a clock for your business-they explain how Joe did his job. If Joe builds a clock, everyone will still be able to tell time if Joe leaves.

The Specialized Knowledge Problem is a training/exodus issue similar to the key employee problem. Two jobs with identical job descriptions in two different companies might be vastly different due to the different markets, company culture and millions of other variables-in essence, your current employees have acquired all of the specialized knowledge needed to make your business work.

It can take years, even for experienced professionals, to take hold of all the specialized, organization-specific knowledge required to do the job well. Many companies accidentally let specialized knowledge go to waste when employees leave and they simply expect new hires to “pick it up” along the way. We call this “reinventing the wheel”-businesses lose a lot of utility and productivity from new hires because they have to rediscover all of the knowledge that was lost when the predecessor departed.

Processes can help alleviate this problem-each documented business process is one more piece of knowledge that doesn’t need to be reinvented whenever turnover occurs in your organization.

Processes Make Measurable Quality Possible

Here’s a quick theoretical for you: you have a team with two employees assigned to identical tasks. At the end of each day, the outcomes of each employee’s tasks are completely different from the others; how do you measure the quality of that team’s performance?

If the two outcomes differ by a wide margin, it’s almost impossible to measure the quality of your organization’s results-it’s only possible to measure quality of results when the outcomes are predictably similar, and that’s where processes shine. Processes standardize routines and tasks.  When organizations have their employees conform to identical processes for business, the outcomes of those routines become predictably similar-this establishes a reasonable baseline by which organizations can reasonably begin to measure quality.

Processes Can Help Identify Operational Inefficiencies

The act of capturing business processes itself has an additional benefit: they help you identify inefficiencies in your operations. If you inspected every major operation in your business and formalized those operations into processes, you’d undoubtedly come across a number of inefficiencies.  Correcting those inefficiencies can obviously help to improve the level of output and quality of those procedures, with little additional cost.

Note: This post was written by Aaron Stannard for the SmartDraw blog.

The Effective Meeting Toolkit“That meeting was a complete waste of time.”

“Why do our meeting discussions wander so far off track?”

“We had a meeting but did we actually accomplish anything?”

Do you ever feel this way about your meetings? If so, you are not alone. Check out these statistics from a Robert Half Management Resources survey (right):

Meetings should be productive. Otherwise, why should we even have them? They certainly should never, ever be viewed as a waste of time.

There are a variety of things you can do and tools you can use for better, more productive meetings. These tools are extremely inexpensive when you consider the potential time savings alone. Increases in productivity and bottom-line results make them a must-have for anyone wanting to maximize meeting effectiveness. We’ve put together a list of some of them for you.

Effective Meeting Toolkit

In the business world, time is a precious commodity. Businesspeople spend a lot of time in meetings. Not to mention time spent on the preparation, and follow-up. Successful meetings are collaborative, efficient, productive and empowering. And although there are varying types of meetings that exist, the toolkit below is aimed to keeping the majority of your internal and external meetings on task and completing on time.

Pre-Meeting Tool Assortment and Preparation

It’s important to set the tone, establish an agenda and communicate the goals preparing discussions prior to the meeting. Otherwise, the meeting is at risk to becoming a time suck for everyone right out of the gate.

SmartDraw-boxshotSmartDraw – Need to create a quick agenda that visually illustrates the interconnectivity of the serious topics and their importance?  SmartDraw is the tool for you. Leverage the power of the mind mapping feature. It’s automated and easy to use in a collaborative environment. Its “one click” export controls let you publish your mind map agenda directly to email and circulate to your team for review before the meeting. This helps everyone understand the purpose of the meeting and sets the framework for achieving a desired result.

Prior to the meeting, be sure you’re comfortable with the hardware available to you. This may include projectors, conference calling, speaker phone features, and WiFi internet access. Don’t rely on your IT department to have this set up and working properly. Make sure it runs with your laptop, iPad, smart phone, or other hardware you are bringing. Otherwise, you risk not starting on time and losing engagement right out of the gate. If your meeting requires involving participants from outside the office, try using these virtual meeting conferencing tools: –  Drop into a real-life meeting from anywhere. is a terrific way to get everyone on the same page, whether you all are in the same room or not. Whether you need to collaboratively review documents, run a training session, demonstarate your products or services or simply have a status meeting, is a simple screen sharing tool for planned meetings or meetings that arise in an instant.


meetingburner1MeetingBurner is a fast and more agile conferencing solution that is also lighter on the corporate wallet and doesn’t require and download or pre-meeting set-up. Meeting Burner features one-touch recording and sharing for use on social media channels or for participants not attending the meeting live.


Meeting Execution Tool Assortment

Once your meeting is underway, the goal is to keep it collaborative. Using your original mind map agenda that you circulated, convert it within SmartDraw to a project chart and begin assigning responsibilities and tasks that originate from your meeting discussions. This allows everyone in the meeting to know what they will be responsible for when the meeting is over as well as the time table for task completion.

Here are a few other tools that can also help facilitate meeting participation and expedite specific tasks:

EvernoteLargeEvernote – Participants that are engaged and remain productive following the meeting typically take copious notes. So, whether you are the meeting facilitator or participant this free app is great for ensuring you quickly capture your latest random idea that may be part of or outside the meeting discussions.


adobe_echosign_1EchoSign – If your meeting requires contract documents to be signed at the end, than you need to have this app. EchoSign allows users to send, sign and manage documents from the application interface. You will eliminate the need of paper from your travels as well as expedite the process of sending and receiving documents from your team to your client, and back again.


Meeting Follow-Up Tool Assortment

Once your meeting is over, be sure to circulate your project chart (or mind map) around to your fellow meeting participants so they have a copy of the official project and tasks. Communicating everyone’s responsibilities ensures accountability and clarity. You then automatically have your agenda for your next meeting to discuss the status of the various tasks that were assigned to your team.

Once you have a clear idea of you and your team’s various responsibilities think about employing a virtual assistant to keep you organized and focused especially if you are mobile much of the working day. Here are few of the best:

Speaktoit-LogoSpeakToIt – SpeakToIt offers much that you would find in Siri – talk to it and it will perform actions. You can dictate an iMessage, open web site, create calendar entries, engage email, maps and other productivity-oriented apps and a myriad of other tasks.

Calendars 5 – The newest calendar from Readdle isn’t just for finding the date – it is a full-fledged task manager and organizer. One signature feature is its support for “natural language.” You can type “Meet Susan in her office at 2:00” and it will create an event, which is much faster than tapping through a menu to create an event.

Do you have other suggestions? What meeting essentials would you add to this toolkit? Let us know in the comments section below.