I have tried. I really have. But no matter how many times I have attempted to read a James Patterson novel I just didn’t have the will to finish it. I think it’s something to do with the endless number of chapters, each one no more than one or two pages long; I suspect that the author is worried that the reader might lose interest or get distracted by wanting to do something else like watching paint dry. So, to have some fun I tried an experiment; I rearranged the 1,000-odd chapters in one of his books into a random sequence (I admit that took a while) and then started to read the book again. The interesting thing is that this had no effect on the plot. I even started reading the book at chapter 1,023 and it didn’t seem to matter that the previous chapters had been skipped.
So I began to wonder if you could do the same thing with a business – just start anywhere and it should all make sense. Well, imagine it’s your first day at a new company; new faces, new office (you hope) and a new job. You really have no idea what the company does or how it works (despite having said otherwise in your interview). As you arrive at reception you are pointed towards the dispatching office (am I to be fired already?) and asked to start packaging some goodies (or did the receptionist say ‘goods’?). Now you’re really lost. Why doesn’t someone just tell you the sequence of things that you have to do? Well, it turns out that the only person who knows how the dispatching system works is not around any longer (not something terminal; he just isn’t there). Now you’re in real trouble because the boss wants to meet you to ask how your first day has gone, and you really want to tell the truth; that it’s not totally your fault…
Unlike a James Patterson book a business is a little more complex. You cannot just hope that a new person would understand how your business works … unless you document it. If you put some effort into documenting all your business processes (and it is indeed effort) then you have a blueprint for how your company is structured – everyone calls this business process modeling. Once you have this in place you can think of implementing a workflow system to control those obdurate* processes. There are some very good software tools out there that will help you model your business and look after your processes – they will pay for themselves in no time, I would have thought. In fact, SYSPRO has its own process modeling tool that will do exactly what you need – should that be a surprise?
And if you think that this sort of stuff is only for the larger enterprise, well perhaps you’re right – that’s probably how they became larger in the first place. So, no matter what size your business is, you should seriously consider investigating business process management for your company.
By the way, you may now think that I spend my leisure time rearranging chapters of books; the answer’s no, I don’t.
* Lovely word, obdurate. An alternative might be pig-headed, or mulish.