Most people that I have met do not read process documents. If you give someone a documented procedure, they may read it once and file it away. Now that is not to say you should not document your processes, you absolutely should. The documentation of your process allows for incremental improvements in your business process, provides for performance metrics, and provides for training. A good process ensures the right things get done by the right people at the right time. Documenting policies, processes and procedures is a normal progression from strategic planning.
I have seen organizations with a shelf full of processes and procedures. Each process makes sense, has been approved, and has a rational reason for existing. Most law firms that I have worked with consider themselves a skill-based workforce. In this culture you should allow your staff to think for themselves and trust they will do the right thing. That statement assumes that your staff have read or been trained in your processes. The smart organization will know how to blend process and skill.
If the business is skill based a good question would be; why do you need any process documentation? The documentation sets the standard you expect. If done correctly the process represents the best way to accomplish the task. The documenting of processes will standardize operations making it easier to predict the outcome.
Look for repetitive tasks to document and put under process control. Today there are so many tools out there to automate everything, like case management. A well-designed process and the right business tool will make it possible for people to participate without the need to understand the bigger process picture, they just need to do the tasks assigned to them, and the process will identify who has to do what, and when. Many case management systems take advantage of documented processes and automate.
For example, let’s say that you wanted to send out a card when a client exits a phase of the case resolution process. You study the process, identify the best place to test for that condition, identify who should do it, and update the process. Once the process is initiated you can hire someone to send out cards without putting the burden on your legal staff. Let everyone know the process has changed and start tracking the change. You may find that people need training on the change, the process requires an update to accommodate the change or that everything is perfect.
A lot is going on behind the scene within any business. Processes, tools, skills, and training often need to be updated. Don’t ignore all that is going on. Have someone outside of the production environment that can administer that activity. People are always going to make mistakes; the thing to do is to recognize and accept that and design your processes with that in mind. Technology, culture and the market all change. Be ready to recognize the changes and to react to them.
Did you find some neat ideas in this blog? What are the exciting ideas you came up with, and how are you implementing them? Let me know by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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