I recently took part in a panel on business execution. Everyone agreed that documenting their processes would improve their operations. However, telling people to document their processes ignores two nontrivial challenges. The first is understanding why it is hard to document a process. The second is how to get your people to use the process! By understanding these challenges and implementing effective strategies, you can maximize the benefits of traditional process documents and drive superior business performance.
The Power of Supplementing Traditional Process Documents
While traditional process documents are valuable, it is crucial to recognize their limitations and explore complementary approaches that enhance their effectiveness. Documenting a business process sounds like it should be easy right? As Simon Sinek noted, the part of our brains that makes decisions is not the part responsible for language. When we become proficient at a skill, our actions are reduced to muscle memory. Studies show when someone asks us to explain our actions, our brain can unconsciously make up stories. Baseball legend Ted Williams believed he could watch a baseball hit the barrel of his bat, but he couldn’t. It is a physical impossibility. It happens too fast. Describing what we do is more challenging than most people realize.
How can you address it? Try to capture only what matters most, like the 20% of steps that deliver 80% of the results. Too much detail can reduce clarity.
How do get people to follow best practices?
Often, staff ignores process documents. Why? A couple of reasons. One is pressure. People find it hard to learn under pressure. Another is expectations. Performance suffers when learning a new skill. We avoid that which makes us look bad.
I find it helpful to remember that my true goal as a business owner is better business execution. I want to help my people consistently deliver what our brand promises our customers. The most effective way to do that, I have found is to supplement processes with stories and tools. Stories create meaning and shape our feelings.
Feelings fuel behaviors.
When we capture our processes, we also capture the stories of the problems solved. A great process should make the user a hero who solves a problem, not a monkey who flips a switch.
A tool complements the story because it shapes the user’s actions by constraining them. This is where proven process documents are essential. I try to never automate a process I don’t understand! Having a fun tool that minimizes errors and maximizes results has a massive positive impact on performance.
The next time you set about creating a standard process, think about the story and automation. Can you make the person running the process the hero of a story? Is it clear the problem they are solving? Do they have great tools to help them achieve that outcome? In my experience, when my people have a key role in solving a problem, and they have a great tool to do it, their performance soars.
If you’re interested in exploring more strategies for effective business execution, check out this insightful article on improving operational efficiency in business for additional tips and techniques or check out our article on “Business Opportunity on Wheels at GameTruck“.
Remember, by addressing the challenges of documenting processes and getting your team to follow best practices, you can enhance your business operations and drive better results.