This is the second in a 3-part series dealing with efficiency in a construction contracting office. The first installment, having to do with the basics, can be found here.
Being efficient is all about systems and processes
Finding ways to make your construction office operate more efficiently begins with determining simple, thoughtful solutions for the various systems and processes necessary to get from point A to point Z. You already have systems and processes in place, whether or not you know it. I think you’ll see what I mean if you take a moment to consider diets.
You’re on a diet whether you know it or not
Assuming you eat, (and I’m going to make that bold assumption) you’re on a diet. Be it good, bad, or somewhere in between you are on a diet. The same thing goes for your construction office; you’re either functioning with poor systems and processes or you’re somewhere on the scale of good, better, best systems and processes.
The words “processes” and “systems” are often used synonymously
I know, because I’m guilty. Yet, they are distinct. A process helps you run systems most efficiently. A system has a process built around it – the process involves specific, documented responsibilities and next steps.
While your entire business could be considered a system, there are smaller systems within it. Each of these smaller systems – advertising, bookkeeping, sales, permit management, supplier management, and so on – should have a process built around it. The process is the steps you take in order to help the system run as efficiently as possible. So how do you determine what each step of a process is or should be? One way is to create a process map.
Create a process map
There are a few ways to accomplish the task of process mapping. One is using an online tool such as smartdraw. Another online tool is Lucidchart where you can also find a brief explanation of a process map.
Or you can rely on the pen and paper method. What you will be creating is a “map” of the sequential steps involved in any given process.
If you’re a one-man-show (or a one-woman-show) then a piece of paper and a pencil or a pen may suffice. If you have a number of people working in your office you may wish to use sticky notes and a wall surface, or a dry erase board. The main point here is to get everyone who is involved in an individual process to be involved in the creating of the process map.
Especially if you’re creating the process map with several people involved, I suggest the analogue method simply because a “scruffy” visual will make it more inviting for people to participate. If you create the map online, things might look “done” to the participants and they’ll be less likely to want to “mess it up.”
Process mapping explained
One of the best places I’ve found for a great overview and tons of information concerning process mapping as well as process improvement is from a process consultant named Ian James. His videos are entertaining, his British accent is a pleasure to listen to, his information is geared toward an office setting, and he understands that people are the most important factor concerning process improvement.
Take a few minutes to watch some of his videos or read some of his articles. He gives an excellent overview of the hows as well as the whys of process improvement.
You may wish to start with this set of articles which deals with classifying different process types. Or this spunky video having to do with ways to overcome the pitfalls you may encounter when trying to do process mapping.
Documenting the processes – no silver bullet
One more article you’ll find most informational on Mr. James’ site is this one having to do with process documentation. It is lengthy and chock full of good info. He says, “The goal of process documentation is to provide a means to communicate what the process is.”
Consider why you may need to communicate what the process is.
- The person who regularly completes a process is on vacation or has left your business.
- A new employee needs to be brought up to speed quickly.
- The process is only used occasionally and people (even you) may forget what the process is.
- Everyone is on the same page when it gets down to “this is how it is done.”
- Your construction business is able to maintain and grow better through consistency.
- Having the written process makes updating and improving easier when the time comes.
“If you don’t write it down, you don’t own it.” Michael E. Gerber, author of The E-Myth
This looks time consuming
If you’re concerned about the time involved in the whole idea of creating processes for multiple systems here are a few things to keep in mind.
- It is likely you already have some good processes in place (and at most, may only need to document them.)
- You aren’t expected to have every process documented perfectly in the next week or even within a month.
- There are plenty of processes already mapped out and ready for you to use in the form of SaaS. (I’ll talk more about that in the next installment of this series.)
- There are a few SaaS applications which are designed to make documentation and the use of set processes available, so you won’t need to start from scratch – think templates.
Setting aside time to create documented processes will, in the end, save you time + headache. Take a look at this post to be reminded why it is worth the effort.
In the next article of this 3-part series the focus will be on ways to build, maintain, and use documented processes on your journey to cultivate an efficient construction office.
Get in touch today, see how Schulte and Schulte can be of service to your construction contracting or service business by calling 480-442-4032.