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Issue #35: The problem with process is process


James Costa

November 21 · Issue #35 · View online

A batch of thoughts, resources, and motivation from a friendly digital agency owner delivered every Monday at 6am ET.

Every week my laundry consists of 6 (shades of) grey shirts, 6 pairs of underwear, 6 pairs of socks, and 1 pair of jeans. Every morning I treat myself to a coffee and oatmeal chocolate chip cookie from the local coffee shop. I have a setup I bring around with me everywhere I work (laptop, chargers, headphones, mousepad, mouse). I’m a person of habit.
When I follow my habits, I’m at my best. I approach problems with grace, I’m much more productive, and most importantly I’m happy. In short: I do my best when I set myself up for success.
When I don’t follow my habits, I’m at my worst. I’m anxious, can’t make decisions, I procrastinate, and take longer to get things done. In short: I do my worst when I take my habits for granted.
Habits are fantastic, except when they work against you. The problem is, we often don’t notice what habits work in our favour. For example, if you try crossing your arms right now you’ll do it in the way that’s most comfortable. But what if you try and switch arms? Pretty weird, right?
Forming good habits is important. They set better expectations for what we’re capable of, and how we can be capable of doing them. When we define these habits we pick out the good ones from the bad, and help us be more self-aware to put ourselves in better positions to succeed.
For teams, habits are process. Much like our personal habits, process can be something we have but don’t notice. When we define process for our teams, we set proper expectations that we can effectively communicate to others (i.e. customers), and can ensure consistency across initiatives.
One of the most important things we’ve done as a team is define our process into what we call our “Phuser Handbook” (if you follow the link, you’ll be able to download a ZIP of the whole thing). The goal of writing our Handbook was to make it easy for aliens (upon colonizing Earth and riding it of humans) to be able to re-create our team (assuming they know English, and still think the Internet is cool).
While initially intended to help us understand what makes us tick, it has helped us onboard new people and forced us to improve on inefficiencies. But here’s the problem we learned about defining process: it’s too rigidYou can’t always follow process, and sometimes the sheer definition of requirements means that work is done without thinking. If you defined all of your habits and followed them each day, you’d essentially be living in Groundhog Day.
We acknowledge process is ever-changing. We try to keep our Handbook up-to-date as we change, and look at it as something that can help us point out what’s wrong. We encourage people to point out what they don’t like about our process, and discuss how we can improve it. While I think we’ve done a good job, we’ve got a long way to go as we make it shorter so that nothing gets lost and easier to access and edit (while making it public).
The solution to process is adaptability. If you can integrate adaptability into your culture alongside a constant definition of process, you’ll find a balance of organization and innovation. Not only will your team understand the importance of following process (i.e. setting yourself and your teammates up for success), but they’ll also be able to point out when it’s inefficiencies and adapt processes to the needs of particular scenarios. 
Imagine being able to go in and out of your habits daily without impacting your ability to achieve success: you’d be unstoppable. Let’s define process and encourage adaptability so we can make sure we make unstoppable teams.
PS: If you enjoyed this week’s issue, I’d really appreciate your support sharing it. Whether it’s a forward, a Twitter post, or writing my name on an Etch-a-Sketch, it would mean the world to me.

The Bureau Briefing
Experience designer onboarding to Fresh Tilled Soil
Three Powerful Conversations Managers Must Have To Develop Their People
“You can’t make yourself feel positive, but you can choose how to act, and if you choose right, it builds your confidence.”
― Julien Smith
One of the things I’ve learned through this newsletter is how to have more brevity in my writing. Often, we go on tangents that aren’t important to the main focus of your writing. I think that’s why it’s so hard for me to sometimes define a thesis to these posts: each topic can be very generic, but having that focus is crucial to making these easy to read. Hopefully I’m delivering on that goal. Like, I could totally go on a tangent now and tell you about how much I talk in real life and how I wish I could have as much brevity as I (try to) in my written communications online, or how sometimes I write a whole post and then franticly wonder if I’ve already written on a particular topic. But that wouldn’t be necessary, would bloat my word count, and likely bore the hell out of you… right?
As always, if you have any questions or I can help you in any way, all you have to do is respond to this email!
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