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Creating Good Process
“The process is clear, people are just lazy”
“I already told people this in an email months ago”
“If __ can follow this process why can’t you”
If you’re saying things like these quotes with any regularity, you’re bad at creating processes for your team. Read on for some hints about how to improve.
You Own It
If you’re making a process for your team, you own both creating the process and ensuring the process is followed. More to the point: if your team isn’t following the process that is YOUR fault.
Now you might be saying, Hold up buddy, there’s also going to be lazy twerps who don’t follow directions, how is that my fault?
Ok, maybe somebody is really just a rebel and won’t follow a perfect process. However, if any non-trivial subset (e.g. 10%) of your team doesn’t follow your process, that is absolutely on you.
Don’t blame the culture. Don’t blame hiring. You were tasked with building a good process, and good processes get followed. Fix your process.
So what makes a good proces? Processes have three main parts: a trigger, an action, and review.
Triggers are what prompts someone to do the action:
Bad triggers happen once. “Oh I sent an email that said this is what you have to do every week to log hours, blah blah blah I’m bad at process”
Good triggers remind people in proximity of the time the action needs to happen. “I set up a reminder so every Friday it prompts to log your hours for the week”
Great triggers hook directly into the flow such that people can’t continue their work without following the process. “Now when you sign into your computer on Friday’s, you’ll have to log hours for the week before you can get to your Desktop”
Actions are what you want people to do:
Bad actions have ambiguous or changing requirements. “Send me what I need to know at the end of each week”
Good actions are clear. “Send me a brief update on your major project at the end of each week”
Great actions are really hard to get wrong. Limited options that enforce format are your friend. “Send me the status [behind, on schedule, ahead of schedule] of your project at the end of each week”
Review is how you make sure the process is being followed:
Bad review doesn’t happen at all or happens too late, and blames after the fact. “We haven’t been doing this process for months, and now everything is ruined! It’s all of your fault!”
Good review enforces the process in real time. “Hey, reminder to fill out your hours for this week, you’re the only person left before I can close the books”
Great review is one that doesn’t need to happen because you have an automatic trigger.
When the Process Isn’t Followed
Another main aspect of a process is what happens if it’s not being followed. As a rule: it’s almost always better/easier/simpler to improve your process instead of trying to penalize someone for not following a process.
You spend tons of time trying to make your team happy and productive. One of the dumbest landmines you can put in place is a bad process that leads you to performance managing or penalizing otherwise good teammates.
Also, nothing will lose you credibility faster, undermine your authority, or make you look silly like you losing your cool over people not following some petty process.
Being bad at process is one of the easiest ways to lose credibility and good talent.
YOU are in charge of a process being followed. If your process isn’t being followed fully or it’s causing disruption, frustration, or resentment, that is YOUR fault. Fix it.
Great processes have automatic triggers, clear actions, and effective review.