Processes are supposed to help organizations, improve efficiency for new hires and existing employees, and so on—but they can quickly get out of control.
Over the past fifteen years, the amount of procedures, vertical layers, interface structures, coordination bodies, and decision approvals needed…has increased by anywhere from 50 percent to 350 percent.
Why do we love process so much? It offers a way to measure progress and productivity, which makes people feel more efficient and accountable. When used correctly, processes should standardize and simplify the necessary tasks that keep business running smoothly. They should enable organizations to undertake complex work, particularly as an organization grows. Smart processes encapsulate bundles of organizational knowledge.
But it’s not a good thing when there are so many processes in place that they restrain the people they’re supposed to help. If your team spends its days asking for permission before executing, taking an hour to complete expense reports or time sheets, attending redundant meetings, or answering irrelevant emails, you’ve got a problem. Exactly when are employees supposed to find the time to innovate when every task or topic is labeled “urgent” and every deadline is ASAP? Something will eventually give, and that something is going to be the part of the job they can keep pushing off until later.
Here are three ways process kills production:
- Empowering with limits: It’s not empowering when people are given more responsibility, yet must still obtain an unreasonable number of approvals and sign-offs to get anything done. This signals a lack of trust.
- Leaders who focus on process vs. people: In an effort to standardize and sanitize everything we do, nothing at work is personal anymore. Leaders look to processes, not people, to solve problems—it doesn’t work. Where’s the inspiration, the vision? This signals a lack of humanity.
- Over-dependence on meetings: “Collaborative” and “inclusive” are corporate buzzwords, but productive teamwork does not require meetings for every single action or decision. People become overwhelmed and ineffective when they are always stuck in meetings. This signals that politics have taken precedence over productivity.Embrace the freedom to be creative and set clear goals with timelines. All ways, always.