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  • Writer's pictureBritt Gottschalk

Developing (and maintaining) good process hygiene

By: Britt Gottschalk

Organizations in all industries, from the early stage to the mature, have established processes and procedures- but how do you keep your processes efficient without creating waste?


"Processes should make anything run more efficiently. Anything outside of that should be considered waste."

In my career, I've been involved in a wide variety of industries and held many positions. Regardless of which organization I was part of, or what my role was at the time, there was no way to get around it - every one of them had a way to get work done, and that work was completed through executing tasks that made up a process flow.

Establishing and improving processes is necessary for any organization, no matter the size. But when do processes cross the line from being efficient to creating more 'busy' work for team members at the expense of productivity? Here are some tips to ensure that your organization creates and maintains good process hygiene.

Have a 'continuous improvement' mindset.

It's important to remember that when establishing processes, they all have to start somewhere. When identifying processes to formalize, there should be a cadence of checking in to make sure that the process is still doing what it is intended to do. Revisiting yours and your team members' roles in the process regularly, even when there is not a glaring issue that needs to be addressed, will keep stakeholders engaged. They will be mindful about how their tasks impact other stakeholders and more likely to notice tweaks that could be made to keep the workflow efficient.

'Shiny and new' doesn't make something good.

At a fundamental level, processes are established to create an outcome that is functional. Sometimes, organizations will scrap a process flow when it has been modified so many times that the original flow is no longer recognizable and the intended outcome is difficult for stakeholders to understand. This can make them eager to do away with a flow and ready to start from scratch. Instead, look to improving a process before scrapping it. It may be a more viable solution to get clarity with stakeholders to understand what the original intent was, re-identify which steps add the most value, and eliminate the steps in the flow that are obsolete.

'Busy' is not the same as 'Productive'.

In a hectic environment with deadlines to meet, it can be easy for individuals to confuse these two words, but what is produced when engaging in each mindset is what separates them from one another. Being busy for the sake of being busy does not directly translate to an outcome. That is the reason that processes exist - to create functional outcomes. Productivity, on the other hand, requires a level of focus. It is one's ability to work on tasks that will lead to tangible outcomes. If there are too many rules around how work needs to get done, and those rules (or steps within a process flow) do not translate to an outcome being achieved, that should be considered 'busywork' and those rules should be eliminated.

Keep it simple.

This probably seems like a no-brainer, but worth a reminder. Just because a process is simple doesn't mean making it more complex will improve it. If the process is achieving its intended outcomes, stakeholders are informed, and the work is getting completed with high quality and efficiency, then do not fall into the trap of adding unnecessary complications. Refer back to the differences between the words 'busy' and 'productive'.

Finding that 'sweet spot' in process flows is achievable, no matter what size or growth stage of an organization. Having good process hygiene will not only save your organization time and money, but your team members will also be more engaged when they're able to complete their tasks more efficiently.

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