Processes are never ‘set-it-and forget it’. It takes people to design them follow them and improve them.
I’d go so far as to say that if you have motivated people and no clear process, they will find a way. If you have a clear process, but unmotivated people… they won’t follow the process properly, and it will fail.
Recognising the people side of process is crucial. Here are three things that will help ensure that they work as efficiently as you and your business need them to:
1)When I was student, they built a new block to the halls of residence… but they left the quad of grass in front of it untouched, with no paths to the doors of the new block.
“What idiots!” we thought…but not so. After a few days, tracks began to appear in the grass where dozens of student feet followed the same routes from the main path to the doors of the new building. After a couple of weeks the contractors returned and put paths down on the tracks in the grass….the shortest and most efficient route into the building.
Don’t try to document processes too soon – wait to see what actually works best (and what consistently works well – it’s not just a lucky one-off) and what’s most efficient before making that the standard for others to follow.
2) There was an enthusiastic (and highly process driven) entrepreneur I knew a while back who loved to write processes. Heck, before she’d even hired a team she’d drafted an operations manual outlining how things should be done, based on what was working well for her.
Unsurprisingly, new members of the team looked at this operations manual…and did things their own way, leaving her baffled as to why people didn’t just follow the process that was obviously successful because she was the boss and it worked for her.
Involve those who will be working with the process in the design (or reviews) of the process. Those closest to it will have insights that those further away don’t. Bear in mind that the process shouldn’t be set in stone – there’s always room for adaption and improvement, and for the process to move with the times…and the business.
3) One leader I know (in the education sector) had a habit of making pronouncements about how things were to be done, and expecting the staff to follow without challenge. His rationale (I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes as I heard him say this) was that he’d closely analysed and weighed up all the options so he knew his decision was the right one.
Apart from not doing point 2) above, he didn’t explain the reasoning behind his pronouncement, which led to resistance to the changes he was proposing.
Always communicate the rationale behind the process to everyone who will be using it. If they can see the benefits – which might be obvious to you, but possibly not to them – then they are more likely to follow the process. If they don’t understand why they’re being asked to do something… they’ll come up with their own reasons why it would be better to do their own thing instead.
Always but always, business systems and processes depend on the people using them.
Rubbish in…rubbish out. Quality in…quality out.