Processes- we all use them, whether we take the time to document and memorialize them or not. They play a critical role in performing complex, multi-disciplined tasks within tight deadlines. Often times, processes used are not the most efficient, but the most convenient for the individual performing the process. This can become a single point of failure, as well as hurt the process when it needs to scale. That is to say, the process that is most convenient for one individual may not be the most efficient and simplistic method for reproducing the process.
What is a process?
People throw around the term “process” quite a bit. In some circles, it has become quite the buzz word. However, it is more than just a buzzword. A process can be defined as the steps to go from start to finish to complete a task. Examples of processes could be as simple as how to write a blog post, or more complicated such as writing a technical report. In either case, there are specific steps to follow, guidelines to stick to, and a format to produce a well-defined end product.
What I often hear are excuses as to why processes won’t, can’t or don’t work.
I wholeheartedly disagree.
Processes are a way to track and measure a task. Through the analysis of tracking and measuring, indicators point to where areas of the process could be improved.
This is where the real power lies.
It’s not that a process, once developed is the end all, it’s that once it is developed and in place, it can be continuously improved. This increases efficiency, reduces costs, saves clients and customers time and money, while increasing the employees quality of life. What’s not to love about well-defined processes?!
Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with me. However, my company and I are working to change that and help other organizations implement processes and systems to make them even better. Read more about how we work if interested.
The downside of not having a standard process for tasks are plentiful. Here are 10 reasons not having a process will ultimately hurt your organization:
1. Without a standard model to follow, each team feels the need to “recreate the wheel”
I’ve seen this too many times to count in professional service firms. The company has been contracted for several projects with the same scope of work. Due to the deadlines for the projects being so close to each other, the company deploys several teams to complete the work. In theory, this is fantastic. In practice, it can cause a nightmare. Without a standard model, the teams recreate the wheel, and produce products that don’t provide a consistent look, feel, or voice. If these products are going to the same client, there is now misalignment across the organization and the perception of the brand may be tarnished.
2. Not having a process guide written and detailed leaves too much room for interpretation
Similar to the example above, if the teams interpret the scope of work from the client differently, they will produce two distinct outcomes. Communication and a detailed process guide can help curb this differentiation, and get all teams on the same page.
To put the best process in place, study your team dynamics to better understand how they work.
3. Without a process guide, the process cannot be quantitatively analyzed to find areas of improvement
Why was Team A able to achieve a higher profit margin on their work while Team B suffered and went over budget? Without a process guide, you simply can’t go back to assess each step of the process to determine where things went south. It may sound tedious, but it can be a lifesaver and a key document in defending the project work to the client. Just make sure that the process guide is following the scope of work directly.
Our Ambassadors can help with this. Simply contact us for more information on how we can write a process guide for your organization.
4. The process can be interpreted by others (i.e. clients) and used in other work, which may not provide the best value
Many professional service firms compete for contracts as an “extension of staff” for their clients. The client finds value in this because they can outsource the work and save money. The client also chooses to outsource the project because the professional service firm has processes and systems in place that are much more efficient than what the client can do in-house.
The question is, is this a true statement for your professional service firm? What is your true competitive advantage, if people and industry software are considered a given amongst your competition? It’s a tough question to answer, and even a tougher realization that your only competitive advantage may be price. The worst competitive advantage of all. More on that in a later post.
5. Not having a process in place means that you organization has no competitive advantage; except in price.
A process can become a competitive advantage, or even a company asset, if used correctly. As most professional service firms are in highly competitive markets, a process is a way to differentiate your organization from others. The client experience can also be enhanced as you walk them through the process, informing them and allowing for a continued dialogue throughout. Providing not just the end product, but an experience can go a long ways in the value that you create for your clients.
6. Without a process, both you and your employees don’t really know where you are within a project.
Project milestones can help, but to complete a particular milestone most likely involves at least one, if not several processes. What are those processes? Are they the most efficient they can be? Are there templates or automation that can be developed to further improve them?
What are the parts, modules, or components to the project? Are there tasks or sub-tasks that can be outsourced to make the overall process more efficient? Define tasks to allow for multiple people to work on one project at the same time, increasing productivity and staying consistent.
7. Without templates and standards, your organization spends much more time and effort than the budget allows.
Have you stopped to analyze the amount of hours charged to a particular project and compare it against the estimate that was produced for the project? Billing hours can be tedious- and don’t forget all the hours documented but that cannot be billed to the client. This falls under the first reason, having an inefficient team create and recreate project work is simply a waste of resources, for you and your clients.
8. Lack of internal communication processes causes unwanted drama in the workplace.
Communication is critical with regard to clients. But what about internal communication? So often, it is looked at as an afterthought. People work closely with a small group and begin to think that they can read their mind. Sometimes it can happen. More often than not, it just creates headaches and drama. Avoid this by having a clear communications process in place. It should follow the process guide for a particular type of project or task.
By not defining the process, employees will inevitably develop their own process. Other employees who learn of the process will call it by the person who developed it. This can cause turmoil and more drama as problems with the process become more apparent. Tip: Have the organization take ownership of the process; have the employees take ownership of managing the process.
9. Without a process in place, team members roam free, putting more emphasis on areas that may not require so much attention
Processes can guide team members and keep them on task. Team members feel empowered as they know exactly what is asked of them, and how to do it to meet the standards upheld by the organization. This helps in quality control, time management, team management, and efficiency overall.
10. Not having a process or processes in place is a sign of weakness in the organization
The brutal truth. You and your organization may have the best intentions to provide superior value, customer service, and products or services to your client base. However, if you do not have a method to your madness that can be analyzed and measured, you can only get so far. And your company culture can suffer because of it.
Wrapping it Up
Having a process in place may sound rigid. It may sound like it is final or concrete. The truth is, processes are what can define and separate and organization from amongst its peers. Companies that embrace processes can grow and scale quickly, while those that continue to think of every project as different grow at a much, much slower pace, if at all. The problem for the second group is that when they do grow, the growing pains become all too real and it is apparent what has not been done. Don’t let that happen to your organization.
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