The habit of process… or the process of habit? Chicken and egg, you say? Well, yes and no. From a philosophical perspective, it is entirely possible to equate one with the other, and from a practical perspective, this is a more frequent occurrence—that habit often becomes process, and if you have good habits, then this works out well. On the other hand, bad habits become bad processes, which we know can result in bad business.
So what can we do to take the other approach—and look at it from the perspective of making sure that we start creating good habits, which then can evolve into good processes?
While every company is different, I believe that there are some basic foundational characteristics that can be applied that can help separate good habits/process from bad. First and foremost, I believe that there needs to be structure and organization, from the most basic of work processes on up. Of course, there are varied levels and degrees to this—from loose management to over-analyzing everything—and that really will vary widely depending on the type of people in your organization.
Among the many things I have learned in my years as a manager is that people possess different work styles, which I liken to the pedagogical concept of learning styles. While there may not be a direct correlation, I have certainly found over my years of experience that one size does not certainly fit all. Acknowledging this is a key component in trying to help your team develop good habits when it comes to your business process. (It has also been a major “ah-ha!” moment for me when trying to force a particular work/reporting style and having it fail miserably (and also when put the other way, when I have been forced into a working/reporting style that did not match the way I work). So really, the challenge becomes creating an organized “repeatable process” (something that we discuss with our customers when presenting our solution), in place without over-managing/analyzing to the point where it makes it hard for your team to make decisions and work.
From my perspective, much like when companies decide to start measuring business analytics, the tendency is to want to measure everything, so you go from 0 to 100, which I have found really doesn’t work. It just grinds things to a halt and creates conflict. So when trying to create a repeatable process (or at least better habits), some fact-finding and observation needs to happen.
I have found it is much better to walk before you run. Get with your team and try and understand what a typical day is like. What are some of the key items/decisions that need to get done on a daily basis and what are some of the common fires that pop up? How does conflict get resolved? What happens when things drop through the cracks? How do they even know what needs to be done on any given day?
Identify the most important and common elements and come up with a way to handle them. This can include decision and escalation plans, weekly meetings to discuss issues, or setting up a simple process/workflow that communicates what needs to be done and by whom. The main thing is to figure out the best way for your particular team to work, and from there you can determine some basics that can be built upon. As a manager/business owner, etc. it is your job to provide the foundation and structure for your team, and by understanding your and your team’s work processes, you can begin to build good habits—which in turn become processes—which ultimately becomes your culture.