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Defining Processes for Yourself

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Usually when we talk about defining a process we're thinking of a formal document used for medium or large business purposes. This doesn't have to be the case though. I've been planning to write this article for a while and realized that the recent article I wrote about posting python code to Joomla is an excellent example since it is relatively informal and leaves room for improvement while defining the repeatable steps.

In most cases, when we repeatedly execute the same task, we want consistent results. In my example case, I want my code to be published with the least amount of work and with consistent formatting. To achieve consistency, you need to follow the same steps each time you perform the task. The best way to do this is to write down the steps. That is a process definition. By defining the process on paper or in a saved document, you can repeat the process any time later by looking up the steps. Also, now that the process is defined you can update the document as you find better ways to handle the task (process improvement). As I find more efficient ways to post my code I'll update the document with my instructions. Later when you want to train someone else to do the task for you, you can give them the document. If they follow the steps you should get the same result.

As you can see from my example, documenting the process doesn't have to be a daunting technical task. While it is preferred to have a defined format for documenting your tasks, just listing the steps and naming the document properly so you can find it later is a great start. You also shouldn't avoid writing down a process just because you haven't figured out the best way yet. If you have a way to accomplish the task, write it down. Now it's repeatable. When you figure out how to do the task better, update you document. Now you are accomplishing a semi-formal process improvement.

Now that I've posted my steps for putting my python code on my website, I know how to repeat the process. I also know how difficult or long the process is. Estimating the amount of work involved in the process is simpler because following the process eliminates guess work. Will the code look the same when I publish it? How did I fix the extra line feeds again? These questions are already answered.

Defining your own processes is a great way to practice for formal process definition. It also helps you to stay organized and to manage your time. Most importantly, as you can see from my example, it does not have to be complicated or take a lot of time.


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