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Processes – Who is your Von Steuben?

Processes – Who is your Von Steuben?

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you will need ‘em

If you are like me, you have had years of frustration dealing with processes. You know the processes that I am talking about, fill out this form, stand here, go there, say this, do that, it all seems dehumanizing and frustrating. Do not even get me started with all the processes that we experience dealing with bureaucracies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles. Everyone in the country can relate to those infamously frustrating processes.

Despite many people’s aversion to admitting it, businesses and organizations need processes. Even if you are a “solopreneur,” you need processes in place if you are going to scale your business.

Von Steuban

Baron Von Steuban was a Prussian military officer who served in the Russian army as well as many other armies in Europe. Von Steuban was noticed by Frederick the Great, the King of Prussia and was made part of his headquarter staff for a number of years. As it sometimes happens when there are military cut backs, officers find their service is no longer required and such was the circumstance that fell to Von Steuban.

As a result of the cuts, Von Steuban found employment on George Washington’s staff. The colonial army was wintered in Valley Forge, PA and in disarray when Von Steuban arrived. Like many small businesses and start ups, the rebels had energy and purpose but lacked training and processes that would enable them to start winning consistently on the battlefield.

Von Steuban instituted a “train the trainer” approach to educating the untrained rebels into an army that could face the most highly trained and disciplined army in Europe, the British. Von Steuban created a training manual and other procedure manuals that remained active with the United States military for over twenty years until being replaced in the early 19th century.

What makes a good process?

When I work with business owners and managers, I stress that a good process contains these characteristics:

• Minimalistic – keep your processes to only what steps or tasks are absolutely needed to reach the desired outcome. Remember the more steps you have in a process the more complexity is introduced.

• Obvious – processes should be well formed and clear so that someone unfamiliar with the task could follow the documentation from start to finish with little to no questions.

• Predictable – your processes should lead someone to be able to anticipate the conclusion of the task or procedure.

Processes are needed for growth

As my business coaching clients prepare their organizations for growth, there is a tendency to underestimate the amount of stress that will accompany that expected growth. This stress comes in many forms, but for those that add team members to their business the stress often reveals itself in the business owner or manager expecting the new team members to perform tasks to the same level of proficiency and passion as they do. Without thought out and documented processes new team members flounder executing vague instructions and unclear expectations causing frustration at the least and loss of business at the most.

Coach’s wrap up

If your business is experiencing confusion or is not “firing on all cylinders”, you need to find your Von Steuben. This person may or may not be in your organization. A trusted consultant or coach who has experience in creating and documenting processes might just be the short-term solution you need to help you create your processes.

Washington’s fledgling army was the benefactor of a lay-off. Without that individual and without clear, easy to follow processes your team may not be successful in the field when battling the competition for market share and revenue.

Who is your organization’s Von Steuben? If it is you, what tips have you learned to create clear processes for your team?
Image from: www.Morguefile.com

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