At one of the first companies I worked for right after college, we had a big, huge, thick training manual that included a lot of information about processes and how things should be done. I was always really frustrated with that. Why are they trying to micromanage me? Why don’t they think I’m smart enough to know how to do things?
And it wasn’t unique to just that company. Other firms where I’ve worked have been the same way, and it always continued to frustrate me. Why does business keep creating and refining models? Why do we waste precious time on models and the tracking of items we should already be doing, instead of focusing on the “doing?”
Well, it turns out, I should have been frustrated with a different question. The right question is not, “Why do we keep creating a process that details how to turn in your time sheet, create a pay application for an owner, estimate a construction process, or turn off the lights?” Rather, the question I should have been asking was, “Why am I not being told the reasoning behind the process creation, the purpose it is teaching, and the importance of the concept?”
Now that I’ve started my own company, I finally understand it. I understand how important it is to have processes clearly defined and laid out for everyone. And I feel like my past feelings of frustration with processes also help me do better with them for our firm, Stone Development Group.
One of the major benefits from processes is the creation of a benchmark – a line in the sand from which to measure. If you don’t have a process, you can’t make it better. You can’t improve a system if you have nothing to measure against. That’s one of the best things about the process. You put something together, start working at it, everybody works the same way and you find out ways together to do things better and smarter.
A great illustration of this concept is in the Bible with the Tower of Babel. The brief (and non-theological) summary is that man wanted to create a tower that was so tall and so strong that it would reach to the heavens to show that he was self-sufficient and to create an idol to himself.
Whatever the reason might have been, the story then follows with God’s punishment of confusing their speech by creating new languages and hindering their efforts. Regardless of how and the true motives in the story, the interesting part for me is found in Genesis 11, verse 6 which states, “And the Lord said, ‘Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.’”
Translation: if you have everyone on the same page, speaking the same language, moving the same direction, there is nothing that we propose to do that will be withheld from us. Process.
Another great, and much more recent book, which embraces this idea is The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. Gerber writes about a set of business processes he created which he calls the “Business Format Franchise.” It is “a proprietary way of doing business that successfully and preferentially differentiates every extraordinary business from every one of its competitors.” Basically, creating processes to run your business with everybody across the company moving in the same direction, regardless of whether or not they always agree 100% with the process itself.
So while processes can be frustrating to some, they are so important and something we will always need to have as long as they are clearly identified and shared with the entire team.