How to Avoid Becoming a Prisoner of Your Own Process with Brandon Weil
We’re excited to be joined by Brandon Weil, the operations director at Eruditio. He was also the chair at the 2020 SMRP conference. Brandon will be giving us an in-depth look into becoming a prisoner of your process.
Key highlights from this episode are:
- What does the phrase mean?
- What could cause you to get in too deep?
- How do you evolve to stop or not become a prisoner of your process?
What does the phrase mean?
If you look at a process and why you need it, you’ll notice it’s a series of steps and actions that will give some outcome at the end. The process helps reduce the variation of that outcome as much as possible. For the most part, everyone is doing things the same way. However, you can take that to an extreme by choosing to ‘what if’ the process endlessly. In doing that, you ultimately become a prisoner to your process. You’re not setting yourself up to allow any thought within that process, yet you know you cannot account for every single decision.
What’s the aim of processes?
Processes are meant to manage the norm, not the exceptions. Perhaps it’s because they assume the person doing the work will not have any training or background as they start to map the process. So, every question leads to an endless decision tree that’s unmanageable.
There’s a difference between processes that guide you towards the result. You need to be able to evaluate the frequency and failure modes in all this. There should be a PM generating a follow-up, where you’re not overdoing things, but you’re also not missing failures. So do the right amount of follow up work for the lowest possible cost. Some people lose sight of that end, which would answer what you’re trying to accomplish, which will help guide your decisions.
What could cause you to get in too deep?
Facilitation is part of it. It becomes easier if you’re a disinterested party to stand back and say you’re going too deep. However, the people mapping the processes are in it every day. And if they’re detail-oriented people, they treat the process like a Math problem where you put this value in and get a specific value out. But in this case, you’re dealing with people, behaviors, and a lot of variables, which means the equation approach to mapping doesn’t work. In addition to the process, you need to ensure you provide the right training and experiences to use the process successfully.
The goal behind the process is to get fairly consistent output and to be able to figure out where the problems and mistakes are occurring so you can fix that. The goal isn’t to take the decision making and experience out of doing what you’re trying to do. Unfortunately, with many business processes, just because of the typical operation’s complexity, you’ve got to allow people to make decisions. The process is just a framework for the big steps that need to occur to get you to that result, doing the most work within that given window of opportunity.
How to tell when good is good enough to move on?
There’s a little bit of a gut feeling involved. But once you get your SMEs to sign off on the majority of it, for those involved in the mapping process, you can get some outside expertise to take a look at it. They may find a few things that they forward to your team’s disinterested parties to take a look at. From the feedback you get, you can then do it. Like a job plan, it will never be perfect and cover every little detail. However, until you try it, you won’t be able to point out the good and the bad.
Do you train people on the pilot process?
You have to train people. Even a detailed procedure that’s spelled out requires you to have background knowledge on that thing, as well as training and to have someone walk you through it. It’s not easy to hand someone tasks they’ve never done before and expect them to execute them perfectly, especially if they don’t have any background on it.
How do you evolve to stop or not become a prisoner of your process?
You need to audit the process to see where the inefficiencies are, especially if you have KPIs or general metrics tied to key steps. Some steps in your process may be very prescriptive, whereas other steps may be based on using your best judgment. Fill up the schedule as well as you can, based on the next production. There’s no perfect way to do something like that. It’ll always keep evolving since you need to schedule compliance and to schedule meetings with operations partners to refine your ability to execute that process over time.
It would be best if you also left some leeway on some of the steps to allow people the flexibility to use their experience to guide their decisions. Someone may be efficient because their method is superior to everyone else’s as far as execution is concerned. You can then take that step and choose to train others on it or make it a refinement to make that step faster, better, and more consistent.
How to prevent becoming a prisoner of your process
Suppose you hear ‘what if’ more than once, stop. Look at the revisions and challenge the group about the changes that have occurred with a certain timeframe. If there’s not much change, then you’re done. Also, if you currently have more infinite loops compared to when you started, then you’ve overcomplicated it. Look at what’s changed in those arguments and retrace your steps to something simpler to execute.
Brandon Weil Links:
- Brandon Weil LinkedIn
- Brandon Weil Twitter
- SMRP Annual Conference
- Past Brandon Weil episodes
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