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We usually don’t think of Predictability as a positive trait.

Especially in this Internet age of “outside the box”, “chasing what’s trending”, “first, new and innovative”, Predictability can come off as, well… behind the curve, un-creative and easily outperformed by the competition.

But when you examine the practical realities of, well… actual business  as opposed to a informal “what if” kind of thing, it’s easy to see that Predictability is, indeed, one of the fundamental elements of Small Business success.  Here’s a real-world example that will make the point quite clear.

Predictability is a GOOD Thing

Let us consider the field of overnight package delivery.  Pop quiz, hot shot: what is the single most important element of the success of companies like UPS, FedEx and DHL?  Is it fancy logos, clever ad campaigns or snappy catch phrases?  No: it’s the predictable delivery of your packages, on time, every time.

Consider the slogan
of the first commercial overnight delivery company, Federal Express (now “FedEx” to its close friends and customers): “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight“. From their inception, FedEx knew that the key to its success was the predictable delivery of customers’ packages. Overnight did NOT mean “a day and a half  from now”, or “as soon as we can,  barring unexpected conditions”.

Predictability, as the second fundamental CPR principle is, in fact, all about the predictable delivery of the first  principle, Consistency.  It is of little value to your customer if your product is of consistent quality but on an intermittent schedule.  “They make a great product… but you have to wait for them to get around to actually producing/providing/delivering it” is NOT what you hear when world class businesses are described.

I use the example of my favorite  donut chain, Dunkin’ Donuts (this is not  a product endorsement).  I love their glazed chocolate cake donuts. The reason I am a long time DD customer is because not only are those glazed chocolate cake donuts consistently tasty and delicious  no matter when  I buy them, I can predictably walk into any Dunkin’ Donuts store,  and the glazed chocolate cake donuts will be prepared — and delivered — to the same standard of consistent  quality.

Many Small Businesses which depend on the output of a single skilled craftspersoncustom-made  jewelry, specialty  cooking, hand-made  anything — usually start off quite well because of the unique design or consistent quality of a product obviously created or prepared to a high standard.

The problems begin as the orders increase.  Since there’s usually only the one individual  — typically, the founder — doing all the actual creating/preparing, the orders start to overwhelm their ability to deliver the product  to the same standard of quality.

At this point, one of two things usually occurs: either they “crank out product” at the same rate, but the quality declines quite obviously, or they adhere to the consistent standard of quality,  and fall behind schedule because they simply cannot turn out quality product quickly enough to meet the increased demand.

How do I DO It??

In our previous post, we learned that to achieve Consistency we need to identify all the tasks required to do the work of our Small Business, and then do every task, every time.  Since the “Predictable” thing we refer to in CPR is the delivery of Consistent quality, Predictability is built upon the tasks we identified in our “Consistency task list“.

You may recall from the Consistency post that I told you to write down all the tasks, regardless of what order or sequence is required. THIS is what we do in the Predictability phase. We identify which tasks belong together, and what order they should be performed in for maximum effect… and minimum wasted effort.  This step is called “creating processes“.

A “process” is nothing more than “a series of actions or steps taken to achieve a particular goal or result”. Nothing fancy or complicated – this is pretty basic stuff here.  Just as the “Consistency task list” help you make sure you don’t leave out any important tasks, the “Predictability process catalog“, if you will, allows you to organize these tasks in the most efficient way possible.

Check out the Catalog

What should you do first?  Some tasks are done every day: others once a week or even less frequently. Assembling the humongous list of tasks is an admirable (and daunting) first step — now, to be Predictably Consistent, you must assemble those tasks in the best way possible to… well, create your version of Henry Ford’s assembly line.

And just like the “Consistency task list“, don’t  expect to get the “Predictability process catalog” down in the first attempt.  In fact, it might require some effort to wrap your head around the whole concept of aprocess“. As a “for instance”, let’s consider the process of mailing a letter to a friend.

The “mailing a letter process” would consist of the following tasks, more or less in this order:

  • Get a pen and paper
  • Write the letter
  • Get an envelope
  • Address the envelope
  • Fold the letter
  • Insert the letter in the envelope
  • Seal the envelope
  • Put a stamp on the envelope
  • Insert the stamped, addressed envelope into a mailbox

I’m sure some of you considering this example might come up with a slightly different list. You might get the envelope and stamp first,  before you start to write the letter.  You might have to purchase some of the items, so these would be additional tasks. Some of you might even have a separate task of composing your thoughts before you start to write — as you can see, processes are quite flexible.

The point isn’t to “do it OUR  way“, because there really is noCPR  way“.  As long as you create the “Predictability process catalog” from Your  “Consistency task list” that works for YOUR  Small Business, you are well on your way to Predictably  delivering the Consistent  quality Your Small Business is capable of.

And that leads to fulfilled  orders, satisfied  customers and increased  profits.  A final added benefit is that, as Your Small Business expands  (you are  planning for expansion, aren’t you? )  you will be able to engage others — interns, employees, partners, whatever  — to assist you in the Predictable  delivery of Your Consistent  quality.

And that’s something you can count on