Unless you geek out on organization, processes are typically not viewed as fun, exciting, or even necessary. Instead, I would say they’re most often perceived as difficult, complicated, restrictive, and even overbearing interferences to a workday.
I’d like to make an argument that lack of process is likely the most significant thing standing between you and the kind of success you’ve dreamed about.
Creating a way of working that capitalizes on repeating activities, accessing and storing information in defined locations, and using a common language with team members and clients is, in a word – liberating. Processes allow for so many things you may not even realize and probably have not associated with something as basic as a process! For example:
Standard processes executed consistently free you up from worrying and wondering what’s happening.
Online documentation allows you to look up information and find answers, which frees you as a leader from being dependent on other people. For your team, it stops the helpless behavior of having to answer so many questions.
Regular processes foster independence and free your team up to take care of clients in the way you have likely envisioned the client experience unfolding.
Consistency of internal processes frees up producers to focus on prospecting and selling because they have the confidence that accounts are being managed and cared for properly.
Standard processes, language, and deliverables allow producers to efficiently prepare for prospect meetings and systematically move opportunities through the pipeline without having to “wing it” or make it up for each meeting.
Owners/leaders can fully see how the organization is running and make strategic decisions. Are you efficient as an organization? Can you bring in more new business? Do you need to hire more people? Inefficient processes are not justification for hiring more people. Fix your processes and evaluate your workload.
Move faster and deliver better results
Smoother interaction between team members allows more collaboration. Expected requests for help are, well, expected and not impositions when collaboration is detailed as part of a process.
Even if more steps or people are involved in a new process, it can move faster when it’s a known, documented part of the process. It allows you to insert checks and balances that wouldn’t otherwise be there. And extra reviews should lead to greater confidence in the delivery of the product.
When you see something, say something. If something is amiss with the process or flow of work, address it right away and fix it.
Inconsistent data in the system? Outline requirements for documentation - CRM, AMS, project management. Push projects back that don’t have proper documentation.
Getting overwhelmed by the number of items on to-do lists? Review lists and see what people are 1) doing with their time and 2) clarify what each person is responsible for.
Sending things out with spelling and grammar errors? Require peer reviews. Buy Grammarly subscriptions and require reviews before sending documents to a teammate.
Expect setbacks as you establish an expectation of following processes. You’ll need to designate someone to take the lead and be the heavy. Stick with it, and don’t bend the rules. Establishing these habits can be challenging, and it takes a fairly hard line to make the required changes when you have a team that is not used to following processes.
Engage the team
A way to create a more palatable experience when establishing a process-driven environment is to invite your team to participate in developing the processes. The people doing the work know better than anyone what is involved in getting the job done. You need and should very much want their input. Here are a couple of thoughts from our own team about process development:
“Being a part of developing processes gives me a better understanding as to EXACTLY why we do things a certain way. It lets me get right to a task instead of wondering and guessing what comes next.”
“Participating in creating processes does two major things for me as an employee: 1) It gives me a sense of ownership over what we’re doing as a team, which makes me feel engaged and literally excited. 2) It makes me feel heard. We all have our own roles, so it’s valuable to collaborate on processes that exist between roles and departments. It means we get to have a hand in how well things are executed.”
Question it as you build it. Is this necessary? Do you have enough steps involved? Do you have too many steps involved? A lot of steps can be okay as long as they’re necessary.
We have many steps involved in some of the things we do, and if everyone does their part efficiently, it goes quickly, and we put out a quality product. When we skip steps, we have to re-do work. Almost guaranteed. The process is there for a reason – likely because you’ve proven through past performance that it’s necessary. So, protect yourselves from yourselves. Processes can be an excellent tool for that.
Track the time
Time tracking is not necessarily a popular concept but one that can change the face of your work and your profitability. You get to see how people are spending time and if it’s the appropriate allocation for a process, project, or client. Through these reviews, you’ll quickly pick up on inefficiencies and identify where you need to streamline operations. Take a look at how our team views time tracking:
“As a quick-start with a lot to juggle, tracking the time I spend on projects reminds me to focus on one thing at a time. It also helps me look back at the day or week and see where processes need to be developed or efficiencies need to be created.”
“Framing time-tracking as a tool for us to learn about how long things take and how much effort projects require allows us to take better care of ourselves and our organization. It helps us set boundaries around how much we allow ourselves to take on and creates clear and reasonable expectations around how long it should take to complete something.”
Become an investigator
It’s not at all uncommon for people to suffer in silence with an inefficient process. Most won’t tell you and just work inefficiently. Or some will tell you by way of other complaints – We need more people. The clients are so demanding. I can’t get my job done during the day. I’m feeling burned out. The XYZ team is so annoying – why can’t they just do their job?!
All of these complaints are signs that things are not working efficiently. Going through a forensic investigation will uncover any multitude of inefficiencies:
- Disorganized filing and file naming systems
- Emails being sent to the wrong person
- Projects being managed over email
- Miscommunicated client expectations
- A culture of reflexive question-asking
- Firing off emails, Slacks, etc. as soon as an idea or question pops up
- Error-prone deliverables and too many back and forths fixing inaccuracies
- Not providing enough lead time to complete a project
- Setting arbitrary due dates and not considering workloads
- Not correctly documenting items in the CRM, AMS, project management system
- Inconsistencies in the way each person works in any of these systems
- Inconsistencies in promises made from client to client
- Not capitalizing on efficiencies through repetitive processes
Just do it
Don’t make process development more difficult than it needs to be! Get started by writing down what you do while you’re performing repetitive tasks. Congratulations! You now have your first process. 🎉
Don’t worry about technology right now. Simply document what you’re doing. Put it in a Word doc, a Google Doc, or on a sticky note. You can worry about refining and getting fancy with it after you and the team are feeling good that your processes are repeatable, and you want to keep them around.
Put in the time, document things clearly, and engage the team in the processes. As you get organized, you’ll see that you need to go back and retrofit current projects into your new processes. DO IT. It’s worth it. Slowing down to get organized will be revolutionary for your team’s happiness, for your operational efficiencies, and for your profitability.
And now, a few bonus ideas!
Some of our inside-Q4i tips for efficiency and keeping ourselves sane. 😀
- Do a Grammarly check before giving it to someone else to review.
- Urgent items can be asked in Slack; non-urgent items get added to the next agenda.
- Hold weekly meetings to address the non-urgent items and consolidate conversations.
- Only people who are necessary for contributing to the conversation attend the meetings.
- All processes are documented in Asana. Have a question? Look first in Asana.
- If it’s not in Asana (or HubSpot), it doesn’t exist.
- Document “it” so we all have access to know what’s happening on all projects.
- Absolutely no documents saved on the desktop or local drive. Work on the original “live” document in Dropbox, so there is only one version and no confusion.
- We do very little emailing within the company. Communication is mostly done through Asana, Slack, and Zoom.
Photo by christianchan.