…”Well procedures only work if you follow them every time.”

The above quote comes from the film ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, written by Mark Boal. So where is the link to business process and procedure Improvement?

There are a lot of harrowing scenes in the film, but this particular one struck a chord. A meeting has been set up with a Doctor who has a connection, to a connection, to Usama Bin Laden. The meeting is at a remote base in Afghanistan. The Doctor is nervous and so procedures are ignored in an attempt to put him at ease. The Doctor enters the base without any inspection. Of course, the result is both catastrophic and tragic.

The event outlined above was one of the worst incidents suffered by the CIA. As it happens, this event was not part of the hunt for Bin Laden, but it does give the viewer an idea of the regular dangers encountered by CIA operatives.

And while this is a pretty extreme case of what can happen if you don’t follow procedures, it does bear some consideration. What then can we learn about policy and process improvement?

Processes and Procedures

What are processes and procedures? Often confused and sometimes conflated, processes and procedures differ significantly. At a very basic level, a process is a means to turn an input into an output.

Policy and Process improvement Process with Input and Output

A procedure then, is a detailed list of events or actions. Often, procedures are contained within processes. But procedures can of course live outside of a process.

Business Process Improvement with Procedure Input and Output

If the process is:

“Make chocolate milk”.

The procedure is:

  • Pour milk into glass.

  • Add chocolate powder.

  • Mix till dissolved.

This is a simple process and simple procedure, and we can of course get much more involved if we wish. For instance we could include measures and temperatures and stir rates, etc. But whatever we do, we do need to stick with the core process.

I have in the past worked for companies that have failed to follow their processes. Often this is done in the name of speed and efficiency. A few “heroes” who have a singular understanding of the processes simply bypass them. Because we are human we forget and make mistakes. Correcting them has an associated cost, and because these tasks are often administrative in nature they will be attributed to overhead and thus be entered as a line under G&A costs. And that hits your bottom line. Ouch!

Policies, Procedures and Processes

There are a number of reasons to create policies and processes.

  • Policies ensure that the business process is codified.

  • Policies help verify that expectations and accountabilities are set.

  • Processes make tasks more regular and the results more consistent.

  • They allow anyone to complete the task that the process describes.

  • A process allows for efficiencies as the process is repeated and learned.

And these efficiencies can be incorporated into the procedures to refine the process. This is important for the business as a whole, because business process and procedure improvement provides a solid operating framework for your business. This framework helps to make operations more uniform and orderly. This in turn makes the business process more cost effective. And less cost improves your net profit.

According to Reuters, Elon Musk said he has tried “very hard not to be the CEO of Tesla, but I have to or frankly Tesla is going to die.” Elon Musk is a clever individual, however, that is a really foolish statement to make. Because he doesn’t have to sell the business any time soon, he can get away with a statement like that. However, if I could buy Tesla from Elon Musk tomorrow morning, why would I? Apparently it won’t run without him.

Your business life becomes much easier if employees have mature Policies, Processes and Procedures to follow. Your costs can be driven down and profit margins improved. What’s more, being able to show a prospective buyer that the business will run without you provides great value. A ‘Turnkey’ business is much easier to sell.

Information Technology and Business Process Improvement

Today’s Information Technologies lend themselves to the development of policies, processes and procedures. We regularly use policies to ensure that processes are followed. And we use procedures to inform users about processes. In other words, Information Technology is process driven. Consequently IT can help with business processes. We can help you with your business processes. This is what we want to do as a company. We want to partner with our clients and help them improve their processes and reduce their costs. We want our success to be a reflection of your success. Delta Plus IT wants to help you with your Business Process and Procedure Improvement, and thus help you grow your company.