April 20, 2006
Liz published this at 9:44 am
Don’t Fear the Process
I was at a company where the core competencies were the highest I’ve ever seen. In three seconds, we could strategize where to sit in a meeting to make it more productive. We could layout a trade booth to maximize traffic flow and product exposure, leaving room for fun and improvization. We knew where we stood in the market and against our past performance on a minute-by-minute basis. We ate the low-hanging fruit for breakfast, and shot down our competition at lunch. We were good.
This day there was an executive strategy meeting — like we needed one. As you might guess, there was a new guy in charge, and HE needed one. My usual Pollyanna attitude didn’t have room for this interruption. There was real work that needed to get done. I resented this pretend work that was getting in the way.
“If he asks us to spell strategy, I’m out of there,” I said to another VP on the way in. It was worse than I thought. He flipped a chart and started talking about SWOT — Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats — which, by the way, is analysis not strategy. We needed that even less.
I didn’t leave. Pollyanna came to my rescue, and I participated in the meeting as the chart writer. Then a most interesting thing happened. When we got to Strengths, I mentioned that this company has incredible process models. The new guy in charge didn’t know what I was talking about.
The Mysteries of Process
(Make eerie, ghostly sounds here to add to the mystery. Would ya? Thanks.)
I really shouldn’t be so hard on the new guy in charge. At the time I didn’t know if I had made up the term, process model. This week I did a “look around” the Internet to find back up for this article, and I didn’t find anything that really explained how to develop a multi-step process that wasn’t meant for adult outcomes. So how could he have known what I was talking about way back then?
Process thinking has so much “stuff” built around it that I figure this subject requires more than one post. That’s why I allowed myself the luxury of that story. The new guy in charge ran several companies and hadn’t really thought much about process. So if you have, you’re ahead already of where he was.
What IS a Process Model?
Once and for all, let’s pick a definition before we go further.
A process model is the usual order in which a person or a group performs a series of activities to reach a reccurring goal. Process models exist whether they’ve been planned or not. In some organizations, the process model is chaos.
Here are some facts about process models that I’ve picked up by developing processes through the years.
- People have a belief that some folks can think process and some folks can’t. That’s not true. Thinking process is a fairly easy visual skill.
- Strong process models mean fewer meetings and better communication in organizations. They mean less work to individuals.
- Change a task or the number of folks involved in a task by 10% and the process model that used to work falls apart.
A process model might be how you organize your work day. It might be the steps in writing a post for your blog. It could be the how-to of closing a multi-step sale for your business or the approval stages you need to go through to get a job started. Get a new client or a new boss and new process models become the rule of the day. Being able to come up with models that serve you and the work is a critical skill that can make your life easier and give you more life to live.
In Critical Skill 4: Part 2, we’ll talk about how to do just that.
Meanwhile, what processes do you have in your life right now? Do any of them take more time than they should? Have you thought about revising your process models lately?
–ME “Liz” Strauss