All businesses, even solopreneurs and freelancers, have processes that govern how they handle any given task or workflow. You and your staff have consistent ways of doing things, even if the process is not mapped out or documented.

Perhaps they’re trained by a co-worker. Maybe the just “know” how to do various tasks because of technical expertise and experience.

One business process management study showed that while 96% of businesses have some documented processes in place (probably from the start-up phase, which means they KNOW documented processes are important), only 4% actually continue to measure and manage them.

So, we start out with good intentions. Then things get busy.

Countless new processes are haphazardly created over time as everyone does their jobs to the best of their ability. None, or very few, of the new processes are mapped out, and there is no system in place for reviewing and improving your processes.

The business starts to leak resources—time, labor, material, and money. And given enough time, even the smallest of leaks can sink the biggest of ships.

business process management leaks

Aside from the gradually increasing waste of resources, there are at least three more compelling reasons to define and map your processes.

1 – Documented processes make your business more efficient and profitable without having to increase revenue.

2 – Documented processes make it possible to scale up your business operations and grow your sales when needed. Undocumented processes limit growth.

3 -A systematized business is far more valuable when it’s time for you to sell. A business process management system is an incredible asset that automatically builds equity.

Documenting and mapping your processes is fairly simple. It doesn’t cost a lot, nor does it require new technology or complicated systems. You lay things out, in detail, from beginning to end.

Yet there are a few pitfalls that will trip you up if you’re not careful.

5 Business Process Mapping Mistakes

Here are five basic mistakes to avoid in creating or reengineering your business processes.

Complicating the Task

The key to a good business process is simplicity. Shorter processes are easier to manage and carry out, as well as easier to update. You should make sure that every step and detail is there, but don’t bog it down.

If your documentation is wordy, look for places to trim. Remove details that aren’t directly related to the end goal. Put yourself in the shoes of the person learning the task. What, precisely, do they need to know and what is not essential to completing the task?

Too Much Jargon

Your employees may be well versed in the jargon of the industry, but if possible, you want your processes to be understood by non-experts. Minimize jargon and technical terms. If it’s essential, define each term somewhere in your employee materials just in case.

Write in an informal, conversational tone. Casual language is easier to understand. Clarity takes priority above all else.

The classic and very funny video above was written and filmed by prominent voice-over artist Bud Haggert when he tired of reading industrial scripts that he never understood. This is what jargon sounds like to the non-expert.

Not Giving Context

While your process documentation should stick to only what the person needs to know, it should also include some context. Whoever is doing the task needs to understand how it fits into your overall business. They need to know the goal of the task.

When they know the end goal and context, they can make the right decision when faced with a problem, without having to stop and find someone in authority.

Focusing on What Not to Do

Write in a positive way, telling the employee what TO do when performing the task. Don’t tell them what NOT to do.

Instructions framed in the negative can be confusing. Positive wording is much clearer to the reader and less prone to misunderstanding.

While it might be necessary to include warnings as part of a task, especially if a improperly handled task can result in harm, the wording overall should be positive.

(And it’s not lost on me that I’m advising you what not to do in this article! My hope is it will prevent you from doing harm to your process and business.)

Reliance on Supervision

Write your processes so that the person performing the task doesn’t have to rely on a supervisor or other staff member to complete the task. In some cases, a task may require technical expertise or knowledge that the person performing doesn’t have. If so, that becomes part of the task.

Alternately, perhaps the task needs to be broken down into separate, smaller tasks. Generally, write in such a way that the person can do it by themselves, without supervision.

Conclusion – 5 Key Steps for Creating Efficient, Powerful Business Processes

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When you avoid these basic mistakes in process improvement, you’ll create documentation that’s clear and easy for anyone on your staff to carry out. Process documents also make it easy to train new hires and to cross-train people in different departments.

Process documents can also be given to service providers when you outsource or to co-workers when you delegate.

Would you like your businesses processes to be more efficient and make more money for you and your company?

Get started today and download our latest Free report here, Streamline and Simplify Your Business: 5 Key Steps for Creating Efficient and Powerful Business Processes.

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Andre Palko Owner
Andre Palko is founder of the Small Business Rainmaker™ and its free weekly e-newsletter. He is dedicated to delivering award-winning marketing and content that helps business owners thrive in any economy.