“Something is wrong with this process but I don’t quite know what.”
“I’m pretty sure we could make this more efficient, but where to start?”
“I can barely see the big picture because I’m constantly sucked into the minutiae.”
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, you can probably identify with at least one (if not all) of the above statements.
When running a business, it’s so easy to be swept up in the whirlwind of the everyday without taking the time to make sure our processes are efficient, the steps are in the right order, and we’re aware of (and therefore working to mitigate) any bottlenecks.
Fortunately, there’s a helpful tool I’ve implemented countless times with my clients to do all the above and more: the flowchart.
Check out the video below for a walkthrough of how using flowcharts could revolutionize the processes throughout your business:
A flowchart is so powerful because it is a visual representation of a process. It allows you to see the big picture at the same time as the step-by-step details.
Start With a Narrative
The first step I always recommend to my clients is to start with a narrative. You want to take a moment and tell the story of a process you’re familiar with:
- What are the goals of the process?
- What are the step by step pieces of the process?
- In what order are they typically performed?
The best way to really capture this narrative is to record it. Grab your phone or another recording device and outline your answers to the above questions.
Write It Down
Once you have your recording, write the steps down in order. This physical manifestation of your narrative can take the form of a checklist or a flowchart.
Now that you’ve written it down, it’s time to take a long, honest look at your process and ask yourself the following:
- Is this the right sequence? – Just because you’ve been doing something a certain way and it’s been working well enough does not mean it can’t be improved. Take this opportunity to take an honest look at your process and make sure it’s streamlined for success. Is this truly the best order of events? How could it be improved?
- Which step of the process is holding the rest of it back? – Is there a step that always slows you down? Does one phase depend on the completion of another slower phase with limited capacity? Knowing the answers here can be so incredibly valuable because they can help you pinpoint any potential bottlenecks in your process. Knowing the bottlenecks is the first step to eliminating them.
Learning to flowchart may be one of the best things you can do for your business. But believe me, I know it can seem overwhelming at first. While getting a process out of your head and into another medium is tricky enough, different symbols are typically used to represent different stages of a flowchart – decisions, inputs/outputs, actions, documents, etc. Each category is depicted with a unique shape.
Don’t let this deter you. SmartDraw provides a helpful guide detailing the different flowchart symbols to help you keep track.
Additionally, there are many tools available to help make your flowcharting easier. You can use software like Lucidchart, Creately, and Visio (or the previously mentioned SmartDraw), for example, to build flowcharts on your computer. If you’re more of a fan of pen and paper, that’s fine too. Detail your process that way. The most important thing here is to actually do it!
Want help flowcharting a process for your business? Feel free to apply for one of my complimentary diagnostic sessions and we can review this concept and uncover anything else that might be holding your business back.