Processes, Processes, and Processes

Sounds boring, doesn’t it? Having processes defined and forcing everybody to follow them makes your company suck. Living in the box, no creativity. Right? WRONG! Process management is essential for a well-organised, lean, and successful business. Of course, there are too many ways to ruin the overall experience and turn your work into a never-ending process of ticking boxes, or endless maintenance. No processes is bad, too many is bad. So how to achieve this perfect balance? This is what we are going to talk about.

To begin with, what is process management? Process management is the discipline in which people use various methods to discover, model, analyse, define, and document the process. It also requires frequent checks and continuous improvement to keep the process flow up to date.

Why process management is important

Now, why is it important? Imagine the situation, you are hiring a new person for your team. The new joiner is supposed to join in a few weeks and typically you are responsible for ensuring their first day experience is as pleasant as possible. You know what to do because you do it all the time. You make sure the hardware is ready, all important accounts are set up, you shoot them an email a few days before explaining when you expect them to arrive to the office, what’s the plan for the first day etc. So your typical onboarding process.

And now imagine that four weeks prior to the start date of a new joiner something happened to you (let’s say you got abducted by aliens). How would the first day of a new joiner look in this case? It’s good if the HR team steps in and sort things out. What if you are the only HR person in the company? Would anybody in the team know what to do, what to check? Chances are pretty high for the new joiner to have no critical accounts ready, no laptop, no work planned for the first couple of weeks. It’s going to be a terrible experience of trying to figure things out for the new team member, as well as lots of stress for the team. And this means wasted resources and drop in productivity.

If you had your onboarding process very well defined and the rest of the team knew where to find it and how to execute it (meaning which steps to follow), it would remove the risk associated with your abduction, and anybody from the team would be able to pick things up and make sure the experience for the new joiner is the same.

In most of the cases we all can figure things out. But it requires a lot of energy and time, it brings extra stress and we have to reprioritise everything. It is also highly inefficient and in some cases can actually damage the business.

So having processes defined and very well communicated with everybody in the company is crucial.

Process management - which processes to manage

What processes should be managed

Should you document every single step of your work and do it for everybody in the company? Definitely not. So what processes do you need to work on?

There are two types or processes you have to have very well defined:

  1. Reoccurring processes that need be traced back if necessary – could be employee onboarding/offboarding, client’s onboarding/offboarding, production deployments, etc.
  2. Rarely executed, complex processes – those that you don’t perform often, but are less trivial, like generating an annual report to showcase your company’s CO2 emission.

Why these two? The first one is obvious. If the process needs to be traced, you need a way to show the steps that have been taken, who has executed those and when.

The second one due to its’ complexity and rare execution could be something that’s easy to forget. It can require a lot of time trying to figure out how to do it again. This is why it’s way easier to have it documented and shared with your team.

Process management - how to build a system

How to build a process management system

There are lots of tools out there, like Process Street, that are designed for process management. But you can also build your own solution in Notion (if this is what you use in your company). Having a fancy tool is not going to solve the problem.

You always start with a system, and build discipline within the team. Once this is achieved, you can introduce a tool, that would make the work more efficient. Here is how you do this:

Step 1. Define your most critical processes

Step 2. Document every process, identifying all steps, exceptions and deviations, people or teams responsible for execution of each steps.

Step 3. Get people involved in each of the process to review your document and provide their feedback (could be steps you’ve overlooked or require some tweaking)

Step 4. Share with your team all the processes and and how to actually use them (depending on your solution). Make sure the team is aware that some processes they own and should keep up to date, meaning updating if necessary during the execution.

Step 5. Next time you need to execute the process needs, ask one of your team members to give it a go and shadow them, to see their experience.

It will take a bit of time and chasing to get this fully adapted. But after your initial effort the team will see the benefit of having a process management system, and they will naturally start extending it with their more specific processes.

Conclusions

Investing time, energy and money in analysing your processes and managing them is crucial for a growing company. Growing business usually means dealing with changes. Which brings lots of stress. And having your vital processes well documented and easy to follow brings the stability and defines the backbone for your business.

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