The process argument is as old as business itself. And the challenge is, both sides make a good case. Too much process leads to major bottlenecks, duplicative effort, wasted time and money, long delivery cycles for simple tasks, micro managed team members, deterred agility, lower results, anemic innovation and worn down employees. Everyday feels like you’re sledging your way through a muddy swamp. And the worst part is, it feels like nobody trusts you. On the other hand, a dearth of process means chaotic projects, confused employees, lack of structure and perspective, limited documentation, longer orienting time, inefficient workflows and wasted time and money. Everyday feels like you’re so far outside the box that there’s nothing to lean against. And the worst part is, if there’s no process, it’s hard to replicate great work consistently.
PROCESS CALIBRATION — Finding the middle ground that balances your team’s need for predictability with its freedom to be creative
If your company is still going to the mat on the process argument, here’s how you might think about that. If you find yourself in the over processed camp of people, ask yourself this. What processes do you currently have that are cumbersome, inefficient, redundant and outdated? Has your process become the proxy for the result you want? Do you actually own the process, or does the process own you? If you find yourself in the under processed camp of people, ask yourself this. Has the amount of your organizational knowledge is hit its threshold? Could you put more rigor, organization and documentation around how you roll as a company?
At one particular agency job, many of our internal structures had coalesced over the years, and we realized that doing things consistently had taken precedent over constantly improvising. During my first month there, my thought was, well, maybe now is the time to upgrade our relationship with process. And so, we launched our first internal wiki. Obviously, this wiki project was not going to change the world. It’s not perfect, and it’s not sexy. Our wiki doesn’t get as much traffic as cat videos. But it’s quite useful. Most immediately, it helped us save significant onboarding time for our new hires. And long term, now we have a platform for systematically capturing our team’s knowledge as it’s happening in real time. The other thing is, the wiki gives us a venue to do something that companies who work in client services don’t do that often. Celebrate the values, processes and strategic thinking that make our agency so special.
If you don’t write it down, it never happened. Process is not a question with a yes or no answer. It’s a spectrum. A matter of degree. Every organization must find the middle ground that balances the need for predictability with the freedom to be creative. Assuming that technology and finances posed no constraints, what would you change right now about your business processes and operations?
Reduce the delivery cycle for simple tasks
Eliminate the need to answer the same questions repetitively
Remove bottlenecks, duplicative effort, wasted time and money
Replicate great work consistently rather than constantly improvising