I started writing last month about the common threads for those contractors who are highly successful, as opposed to those who are just barely making it, or in some instances, are no longer around, and have put them into a top (or bottom, depending how you look at it) 10 list.Last month, number 10 was Poor Project start (www.cssworks.com/blog).  This month, we’re moving on down the list to …Terrible Mistake #9 , No Documented Processes
Typically exhibited by some form of semi-organized chaos.  How can you tell?  Pick anyone and ask them what the process is to say, starting up a new project.  Now ask someone else in another department.  Determine if 1) the processes are the same (usually they are not), and 2) how much duplicate effort exists in each.  Multiply by the number of extra steps, and opportunities for mistakes at each “hand-off” from one person to another. 
Now factor in the “telephone game” effect of turnover over the months and years.The impact of inefficient, undocumented processes is massive inefficiency that causes redundant effort, slows down almost any process and often requires the personal intervention of management to make decisions about next steps, no matter how minor.How to prevent making this mistake?  I’m a big believer in process, especially in creating repeatable, documented processes that can be executed without management intervention.  I often recommend a book by Michael Gerber called “The E-Myth,” or the follow-on version “The E-Myth for Contractors.”  I recommend it because I wholeheartedly believe in the basic principles within it.  It’s a really easy read, but the basic premise is that every small business will eventually have its growth hampered if it can’t set up processes that don’t require the owner’s intervention.  Some people may think of it like “McDonald-izing” their business – that is, creating simple processes that don’t require rocket scientists to execute.  (I’d like to send you a free copy of “The E-Myth for Contractors”.  (Go to www.cssworks.com/emyth to request your copy.) Some of the keys to implementing new processes include:

  • Documenting (Process & Job Descriptions)
  • Training
  • Workflow (Focus on the handoffs)

The reason process and job descriptions go together under documenting is that revising processes includes streamlining processes.  The creative part of streamlining is figuring out how to minimize or eliminate paper movement, with the goal of speeding up the process and removing redundant steps.  Look at eliminating process steps that are done because “we’ve always done it this way.”  When the company is open to changing and streamlining, job description revisions are a natural outcome of eliminating redundancy, resulting in more time availability for higher value tasks.

The biggest impediment to improving a process is fear of, and resistance to, change.  Getting your team — or departmental teams — out of their comfort zones to be able to embrace new, more efficient processes, is never an easy task, and requires top management buy-in.

As part of Terrible Mistake #9, I’d like to offer special pricing to review one of your processes that’s been nagging to be revamped for some time now.  Go to  www.cssworks.com/number9  to sign up and let me know what that process is.   Oh, and my guess is there are spreadsheets involved — so be prepared to show them to me!

Stayed tuned for our next edition and number 8 in the Terrible Mistake series.