I love a good workplace process, so much so that during my last corporate role they called me the ‘Process Queen’. I was fine with being handed such a moniker and I didn’t make any apologies for the way I worked. My love of a workplace process and the benefits it can deliver a business was rooted in me when, during a break from University, I worked in a factory. The work I did was pure process work and quite simply for the entire time I worked there, I was one cog in a fairly complex production line. I had strict output targets to meet, and if I didn’t complete my ‘job’ in the order it was needed to be done the ramifications that were felt up and down the line were huge. Now, I am not saying that in my time in the corporate world it has been that dramatic, but I have certainly experienced the benefits of a well-defined way of tackling a problem or completing a task and the downside when we haven’t.
Over the last 20 years as I moved through my career, from factory to office floor, I firmly believe a good workplace process can help a team of people understand how to get things done efficiently, can take away uncertainty and help people understand why things benefit from being done a certain way. However, not all process is created equal and quite frankly, rubbish ones can bring a company to a halt. So, what makes a good process and, importantly, guarantees your team will follow it?
From my experience, the key to the success of any process relies on three key criteria; it needs to be clearly communicated, it needs to develop inclusively and it needs to have flexibility. Let’s take a look at these three points.
It needs to be communicated clearly
Quite simply, for a process to be successful it needs to be adopted and for it to be adopted it needs to be known. If a process exists but no one is aware of it then it will not be followed and individuals will go about doing things their own way – as they’ve always done. Furthermore, it needs to be understood why the process is the way it is and what is the benefit of doing a task/job/project a particular way. Don’t assume that just because you have put years into fine tuning a process that others within the organisation either know of its existence or understand why they have to do it a certain way – and don’t blame them if they don’t. If you are the owner of the process, it is your responsibility to ensure everyone knows it exists and what the benefits of adopting it are.
Tip: To increase the success of a process spell it out. Run a workshop to take co-workers or team members through it, include it in induction materials and handbooks for new employees and regularly send reminders of how a certain task should be done. Final tip, don’t forget to cover off ‘the why’, people need to understand where their role fits in with the rest of a project.
It needs to develop inclusively
If you are developing a new process or reassessing existing ones, the best way to absolutely guarantee its success is to include all the necessary key stakeholders. These stakeholders are the individuals who will either utilise the process or be impacted by it in some way. Now, before you throw your hands in the air and scream – but there will be too many cooks, take a step back and have a think about it this way. If you develop a brand new way of doing things for your team without considering the minutiae or oblivious to obstacles that currently exist not only will the process not be adopted, chances are it will cause more problems than it solves. If you are reassessing an existing process – which you would be doing as it’s not working efficiently – then you need to have the people in the room who are using the process regularly to gain first hand insight into why it’s not currently working efficiently. You may be a good manager but you can’t know everything that is going on at a granular level, so get the right people in the room, give them a level of control for the output and you will end up with a process that will fit not only the task, but also the team.
Tip: Run this session as a half-day workshop and have an independent facilitator manage the session. This will allow you to experience the session from within and also remove the hierarchy from the room – increasing the comfort level of the team to tear apart and put back together a process they may not have liked.
It needs to have flexibility
Wait, hang on, it’s a process it shouldn’t change – should it? This kind of thinking can bring a process down and I have certainly experienced this in the past. Inflexibility doesn’t make for a good process nor does it make for good working relationships, so remember a process is a framework that gives structure and guides how a project should move from incubation to launch. However the stronger the framework, the better equipped the team will be to handle any issues. It is just not possible to foresee all possible scenarios before a project starts, and it is likely at times that things will go wrong, therefore a process needs to be able to bend and flex to accommodate any unforseen issues.
Tip: A good process will fit the individual business and the resources it has – a well-planned process will also identify potential curve balls and an offshoot process of how to deal with them.
Do you agree? Are there other key factors that make a good process?
Would your business benefit from streamlining a process. Max & Buddy Consulting could facilitate this for you – why don’t you contact us for an obligation free chat?