Get It Done Right - Every Time

One of the most common phrases we hear in business these days is "best practice." But what truly constitutes best practice and, if it can be achieved, how do you know that you're attaining it?

According to best practice is "a method or technique that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved with other means, and that is used as a benchmark."

All too often, what we believe to be best practice is simply based on intuition or tradition (e.g., "rules of thumb"). When Frederick Taylor developed scientific management in the late 19th century, he set out to use studies of workers and tasks to determine best practices that were based on fact, not conjecture.

While much of Taylor's philosophy fell out of favor by the 1930s, he did introduce a way of thinking about finding efficiencies in business production - i.e., best practices - that live on today.

One of the best ways to ensure that a business is engaging in best practice at every level is through process documentation.

Most companies have a number of processes that are needed - and must be executed correctly - to deliver their product or service to market. But without documentation, these processes are hard to quantify, control, and repeat successfully.

By documenting the company's processes they become organized so as to make them useful to everyone from top management to entry-level staff. Here are just a few reasons why every company should document its processes:


It is not unusual for companies, upon completing the task of documenting processes, to find that they can implement practices that are better than those previously thought to be "best." (This would undoubtedly make Frederick Taylor happy.)

Many companies desire the benefits of process documentation but consider it to be too time-consuming to implement. This is where visuals can be very effective. Documenting business processes with visuals is easier, it can be done in real time, and it is more complete. Visual business processes are easy to create and inefficiencies or redundancies in the process are more readily apparent in a visual than on a page of text.

Visual Process Management (VPM), developed by SmartDraw, totally revolutionizes the way processes are documented and managed. A VPM Collection is a complete digital model of an organization's structure and business processes. In a VPM Collection every process is linked with the position responsible for executing and managing it. Information is presented visually rather than in text alone.

So, how do you get started? It's not as difficult as you might think. There are only three visuals involved.

Here are some steps to help you hit the ground running.

Step 1: Create an Organization Chart

The first step to implementing VPM is creating a comprehensive organization chart. This way, every person in the company can see how their job or department relates to another. Further, it clearly shows the hierarchy of the company, ensuring everyone knows who reports to whom.

If you have a large company with many departments, you may want to consider adding photos to your org chart - for managers and department heads. This is especially helpful to new hires or people in other divisions, as it allows them to put faces with names.

Step 2: Create a Job Map for Each Position

Each position in the company has a set of responsibilities. These should be described in a job map, which is similar to mind map, but has more structure. Each job map defines the job description and the processes executed. For each job map, there should be a title block that identifies the job title, to whom this position reports and the date when information was last updated. Here's an example of a job map for an insurance claims adjuster.

Step 3: Identify the Master Process

Once the organization chart is complete, the next step is to document the master process. This should be identified in collaboration with higher-level management. The master process is the foundation on which a VPM Collection is built. The master process is composed of a master production process and auxiliary processes. The master production process is an outline of the company's function (what it does to make a profit). The auxiliary processes are the departments that support the master production process, such as Marketing and Sales.

Step 4: Document the Sub-Processes

The sub-processes should be identified and defined by drilling into the details of each step within the master process. These should be systematically documented down to the level of detail desired. This systematic approach not only ensures that nothing is missed, but also provides context for every process in your organization. Instead of a random collection of isolated processes, you can instantly see how each process fits within the organization and how they interact together.

Step 5: Validate and Post-Process the VPM Collection

Usually the post-processing procedure is worked on once the VPM processes are documented and the hierarchy is already made. This is where a review of the VPM Collection is made to ensure that the flowcharts are broken down into simple, single-page visuals for maximum simplicity. We also want to make sure there is no missing information and all hyperlinks connect properly.

Step 6: Store the VPM Collection in a Central Location

For maximum benefit, the VPM Collection should be saved on your company's network in a central location. The VPM Collection should be a living, breathing collection of business processes that can be referenced and modified when appropriate.

Managing Collections

SmartDraw manages the group of hyperlinked documents that make up a VPM Collection by treating the files in a folder and its subfolders as a single Collection. Collections can be moved and printed as a single unit, while still maintaining the hierarchy of the hyperlinks.

Deploying a VPM Collection

To maximize the value of a VPM Collection all of the people in the organization whose jobs are documented should have access to it. This allows everyone to see what processes they are responsible for and how to execute them. Because jobs are documented, getting new employees up to speed is faster and they learn how to do the job right the first time!

The Collection can be deployed on a file server. Users who manage processes should have read/write access to the documents that describe them, so that they can update the processes when changes occur. Other users should have read-only access.

Visual Communication

Studies show that communicating visually is up to six times more effective than communicating with words alone.

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Document your company's processes and make sure the job gets done right every time.