Business owners and managers can get so caught up in the excitement of their day to day business. It’s understandable, business is exciting, and most business owners and managers are getting into business to spend time doing what they love and where their passion lies. They don’t usually get into business to push paper and sort files. Because of this common disconnect, many business ventures can find themselves one, two, or even three years into operation and they don’t have clear job descriptions, safety and compliance procedures are haphazard, and they barely have a sick day or vacation policy in place. Clearing up any confusion is where process mapping comes into play. Process mapping is the act of determining what a business not only does and how it does it, but who does it and the importance of it cannot be understated.
Why is Process Mapping Important?
There are a number of reasons why process mapping is vital to the success of your business. Running a senior living community, for example, requires the flow and tracking of a lot of moving pieces of information, and people! Having processes outlined and in writing keeps everyone on the same page, answers questions that may arise and ensures a consistent operation. Process mapping also means that anyone, at any time, can come in and see how all the pieces of the operation work and fit together. Clarity is an important aspect of job descriptions as well. Since there are a number of different staff positions in your senior living operation, it is essential to know not only what each person is responsible for, but how they do it. You can ask each member of your team to map out their job duties and provide steps or explanations on how the tasks are carried out to completion. Many larger corporations will hire a consultant to provide this mapping of processes, but business owners or managers can do it themselves, with the help of their teams.
How to Assess Your Current Operation
The need for process mapping usually comes about because of some unforeseen incident. For example, a business might be chugging along fine until one employee announces they need to go off on disability leave, or extended sick leave. As the Executive Director, you might not have any clue how to facilitate that request. You know they are entitled to the leave — or are they? — but you don’t know how to see that through so the employee gets what they need. In addition, you now need to replace this employee for the extent of the leave. What this person does and how they do it is a huge factor in the hiring process whether permanent or temporary. The unknown can trigger an alarm in your business that you need to start putting procedures in place.
Start by sitting down and making a list of all the things your business does on a regular basis, including the one-offs, those things that may happen only once, as well, because they tend to provide valuable information about what else you might need to put in place to make your business run more smoothly and efficently. After you determine all of the processes that your business engages in, write down who actually does the work. Who writes and submits the reports? Who tracks the information? Who answers your technology questions? Who handles the money? This is an excellent way to determine roles and responsibilities and share the workload amongst the group. You’ll also see that you have a number of processes that no one is responsible for, either because it hasn’t come up yet, or because it keeps getting pushed to the side in favor of more important things.
Building a Process Mapping System
There is any number of process mapping and management software available on the market today. Many include automation and suggestions for improving your processes. There are many ways to accomplish this task. There are software packages that can help you achieve this or manually with pen and paper. If you are doing this the old-fashioned way — pen and paper –, then you’ll want to create a chart that lists all the processes at the top and then draw connections between the processes to find ways to streamline them. For example, if you want to have a process for requesting vacation time, you will write “vacation request” at the top of the chart, and then proceed to write down the steps for requesting vacation. These might include verbally checking with supervisors about requested vacation dates before submitting a paper or electronic requests. Or the process might involve requesting vacation through email to the Human Resources department, and they approve the request and keep track of your remaining vacation time. You can duplicate this charting system for all the processes you have in your organization. Be prepared to identify processes you hadn’t thought of as more and more information is revealed to you through this exercise.
Looking for Gaps and Flaws
During your process mapping efforts, it will be important to look for opportunities to save time, energy, money, and space. Process mapping allows you to see where you are exerting too much effort, where you aren’t exerting enough effort, where you can remove responsibilities from some employees, and place more responsibilities on other employees. From start to finish, the process mapping experience should provide you with valuable information about your business operation. And if you do it correctly, it should provide you with a plethora of insight into how your business works. Process mapping also makes it easier to bring others in at multiple points in different facets of the operations seamlessly. Process mapping is also important for career succession planning for your employees, as well as your family, should something ever happen to you and your family is left to handle the company.
Conducting a process mapping exercise for your business should not be rushed. It is essential that you consider all aspects of your organization and understand how it functions as a complete entity. Whether you run a large multi-site senior living operation, or you are a solopreneur, understanding how you spend your time and energy, and how your product is rolled out to the world is vital. You will want to map out how you and your team spend your time, what services you intend to deliver on a regular basis, how and who will deliver those services, how you interact with residents, how to purchase supplies, track expenses, and more. These are just a few examples of the kinds of things operators need to think about and write down how they work. It can take time to see patterns emerging in your work and your habits, so be patient with the process for the maximum amount of impact in the end. Be open to what you find and learn through the process and look for ways to improve upon them at every turn.
Documenting Your Process Mapping Efforts
As you make your way through your process mapping efforts, documenting all you do to keep your community running, decide how you wish to save and access this information. The process can be done electronically and saved in the cloud for all employees to view, or you can create a physical version and keep it handy for reference in your office or in the workplace. Either way, the process mapping exercise is only valuable if it establishes verifiable information for yourself and employees to reference. It keeps residents and employees alike safe, the operations running smoothly, ensures people understand their responsibilities and provides answers to questions someone might have about a particular process or procedure.
Don’t skimp on the details and put the effort in on the front end, and your business will thank you for years to come. Be sure to update the process maps regularly as processes change or if new people take on new and different responsibilities so that it is as current and accurate as possible. The documentation is the key to the whole effort.