This is the second of a three-part series focused on explaining my business philosophy. Part One is also available.
On my home page I call out my personal business philosophy:
Andrew's business philosophy is built upon the value of mutual respect, the skill to leverage process for continuous improvement, and the ability to ultimately achieve self-actualisation.
I am a big believer in the value of process. This can be the big, organisational processes that dictate how companies do things, like build a component, or undertake customer service, or issue a refund. Or process can be an individual’s personal to-do list that helps them to get things done on a daily basis. Ideally the latter should represent a subset of the former but I think we are probably some way from that ideal being standard practice.
When processes are documented they provide an anchor point as to the way things are done now. That’s not to say that it is the way things will always be done. In fact, changes to processes should be welcomed. However, a documented process enables everybody involved to have a shared understanding of how things should be done. If something goes wrong it should be evident where the process broke down. That can enable improvements to improve efficiency and simplify things for those involved.
A process should never be considered a finalised product. Stagnation is the enemy of improvement. No way of work should be considered beyond reproach. No process should be sacrosanct.
A current process is merely the way in which one group of people at one point in time thought would be the best way to achieve an outcome. With new information, new technology, changed inputs, or changes in customer demand, there might be a need to change the process to achieve a better — or just different — outcome. Go ahead, make the change. The only way to drive improvement is to change stuff. Otherwise, you already know what you’re going to get before even starting. Repeating this approach of making and trialling small changes, over and over again, is how to achieve better outcomes.
Trial and error and small incremental improvements are the crux of continuous improvement.
Once a process of documenting processes and updating this documentation upon each change is established a traceable (and reversible) process history is created. In software development, this is standard practice - managing versions and being able to compare code differences is a key element of development and debugging.
More generalised process management can benefit from a similar approach. Make a change and see if it works. If things get better after the change, stick with it. If things get worse, revert the changes and try something different.
At a personal level I implement process management for my own work. I rely primarily on OmniFocus to manage standard operating procedures for projects that are repetitive in nature. I use project templates that enable a framework to guide work that is similar in nature. As I learn and discover better ways of doing things I refine and improve my templates.
This makes my work more effective in the short-term because I don’t have to think about the how/when/where’s of the repetitive work elements. Instead I can focus my energy on doing great work on the value-adding elements of the project that matter to my clients.
At first blush, the concept of defined processes can seem staid and boring. In actuality it is freeing. Defined and documented processes allows people to forget about thinking about the steps to achieve a goal and instead allows them to focus on using their skills and expertise to add value to create a better end product.
Process doesn’t restrain creativity; it unleashes it. For this reason it forms the key middle component of my personal business philosophy.