Bird walking across grass behind a 'do not walk on the grass' sign.

Don’t Walk on the Grass!

Why I Love Processes

I am a natural rebel. I see a ‘Please Don’t Walk on the Grass’ sign and guess what?

 

So why on earth would I say that I love processes, I hear you ask?

Badly designed processes are a drag on your business.

Do your processes feel like this?

 

I don’t blame you – processes are tricky things. Far too often they become warty monsters – leviathans apparently deliberately designed to thwart any actual action let alone outcome on your part.

 

 

Brancusi statue as a smooth process

This is what your processes should feel like!

 

 

 

But here’s the thing – this doesn’t need to be the case. A well-designed process is like a Brancusi statue. All aerodynamics that encourage and assist a smooth flow.

Don’t Tinker!

The trouble starts when we tinker with a process, adding lots of little enhancements and trying to make it do too many things. The end result is that it does nothing well and becomes a drain on productivity rather than adding value.

Most processes you will come across seem to be of this nature and consequently they have a significant negative impact upon business productivity.

What makes a well-designed process?

Well-designed processes will:

  • Mitigate risk
  • Encourage momentum
  • Set clear boundaries.

This leads to faster, more successful and more valuable outcomes.

It is not unusual for a new business to develop high quality processes in the sense that they are simple, easy to understand and have been designed with a very specific goal in mind.

However, as the business grows, life becomes more complex and the typical response is to add bits to existing processes until they end up losing any real focus or benefit.

There are a lot of excellent tools out there that assist with designing new business processes. Many are quite complex – no, VERY complex. This article describes some of the best process mapping software out there and I would recommend reading it if you think you need to do some business process design.

Crucially they typically miss a few fundamental initial steps you should take before designing your process. Try embedding the below steps at the start of every process design and then review your finalised process to ensure it hasn’t drifted away from them.

If you do this, I can guarantee that the chances of any process you design being used and retained by your organisation will increase dramatically.

 

Simple Steps to Make Processes More Useful

Step 1.  Understand the why of your process. The end goal should always be about providing a benefit to someone or something outside of your process. Sounds obvious but very few processes are designed with this in mind. Very often, a process is designed with the convenience of the process users in mind.

Step 2. Secondly, the process should create value for your organisation. This value may be a saving in time, a reduction in the skills required to operate something (and hence the salary of the operator), or an improvement in reliability or quality. That value should also align with your business goals. There’s little point designing a process to make the highest quality widget when your business goal is to maximise sales volume of cheap widgets.

Step 3. Finally, on the topic of business goals, the process should align with your business values or ethos. So if you are committed to minimising the environmental impact of your business, don’t design a process that requires lots of paperwork!

In conclusion, remember that processes are meant to be designed for humans, not the other way round. Be honest when you look at your new process. Would you really feel comfortable always following that process rather than taking short cuts or doing things differently? If you are tempted to walk on the grass rather than follow the defined paths, redesign your process.

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