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The business of process

When operational issues occur it’s invariably a process rather than a people problem, says Think Smarter’s Rebecca Aldridge

I’m guessing that your adviser business will have a collection of processes built up over the years. You probably also have checklists and templates for the high risk or more complex aspects of advice work or business processing. After all, we work in a profession where making a mistake can have significant consequences.

So let me ask you: Do you think that everyone in your team follows processes in the same way? If you had an experienced paraplanner or adviser join 
you, how long would it take them to understand your way of working? How much is written down? How much time would they need to spend learning on the job?

Now I want you to think back to instances when something went wrong. A mistake was made which caused the client to be out of pocket. An important section was missed out of a suitability report. How did that happen? You will usually find that problems are caused by a process that hasn’t been properly followed, or that there is an issue with the process itself. It’s a process problem, rarely a person problem.

So I want to suggest two things:

1. Get as many of your processes captured as you can.

2. Look for opportunities to improve them.

Capture your processes

Firstly, sit down with a group who actually do the work, explain what you want to do and why. Then go through each process step by step. You might see opportunity to make some improvements at this stage. Together, analyse each step and ask questions, particularly with these three points in mind:

• Can we improve the client experience?

• Can we minimise the potential risks to the business?

• Can we be more efficient with our time or resources?

To start with, try capturing the high level process with a flip chart stuck on the walls and lots of post-its, then map it into Microsoft Visio, SmartDraw or even in Excel. Either way, have a look at some process maps 
in advance and get familiar with the layout and icons. SmartDraw’s website has a free training area.

Then look at the checklists, templates and videos you have which link into the processes. Are they simple to use? Will a checklist be easier in Word
 or Excel? Do you want one checklist per client, or a central spreadsheet so you can pull out data when you want it?

Now you will want to make sure your processes are easy to access and use by having 
a central manual or reference location of some kind, or an intranet with links to everything you need.

Review and track the problems that occur

You might then want to look at keeping track of all issues or problems that your team experience. The consequence might be financial, it might be wasted time. Both are important.

A group of you could look 
on a monthly basis at what 
has caused each problem, the severity of the impact and what the resolution is. Amend your process, then go back to it in a month’s time to check if it had the effect you wanted.

This monthly review is a collaborative, positive process to improve the way you all work. 
Is there anyone in your team that would not want a regular opportunity to make clients happier, reduce the risk to the business and get their work done more quickly with fewer mistakes?

Each business is different and what I’ve suggested here might not be right for you although hopefully it will get you thinking.

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