EB113 - Process Management © Question:   I have a friend who is an engineer.  He's always talking about "process management" and "work process analysis."  Can these concepts help me in my small business?

Larry:  The simple answer is: absolutely.  But I guess you're looking for a little more than that.  Think for a minute about the most organized person you know.  He or she is the one who's always on time and doing the right things.  They get so much done in a day it makes you feel tired just hearing about it.  Well, that person -- whether or not he or she knows it -- is probably using some process management techniques.  The principles of process management are really quite simple.  As you read the following items, try to picture that really organized person you know and recall the things he or she has said that demonstrate how being "organized" is no accident.

1.    Every idea (good or bad) will ultimately require work of someone.  If little Joey has an idea for something good to eat, someone must prepare the food and serve it.  If your boss has what he thinks is a good idea for a new sales campaign, someone will have to organize, plan and execute the idea.

2.    All work takes place in segments (or steps) that together are called processes.  Almost everything we do at home or at work can be described as a process, with a beginning, end, and logical segments
of activity in between.  When we cook, mow the lawn, drive the car, write a proposal, or repair machinery, we are working through the steps of a process.

3.    Resources flow through processes to produce specific outcomes. To make a cheese omelet (a specific outcome), someone (a human resource) must acquire some eggs, cooking oil, a frying pan, a stove, plates, utensils, etc. (resources) and combine them using a specific procedure or sequence of steps (process).  The design, planning and implementation of every process is controlled by the resources that are available to us.

4.    Each segment or step in a process depends upon the successful completion of the previous steps.  If someone mishandles the eggs and drops them on the floor, there will be no omelet.  To prevent this kind of error, a better procedure for handling eggs must be developed.  When we concentrate on improving the individual segments of a process, we can make the overall process more reliable.

Process management teaches us how to think about our work in an organized way.  And, at the very least, process management techniques will help you become better organized personally.  The better organized you are personally, the more effective you will be in managing the demands of your small business.

When people begin to think about the time and resources they might be wasting, they can find the motivation to become more like your friend.  Even if you're not a "gifted" organizer, you can be better organized and more efficient.