Working for a big business the word process can easily come up a dozen times in any given conversation. Depending on the individual you are speaking to it can come up multiple times in a single sentence. This is one of those words that is so overused that it begins to loose all meaning. The problem is that just saying you need process isn’t enough to solve your problem.
What is it that brings about the need for process? There are dozens of things but I am going to focus on four that I see consistently: First is habits. People get into routines or are averse to change. Sometimes it is a knowledge or skill gap. If you don’t know how to do something, you may need to build up skills in your team to avoid tasks being routed through that one individual who has the right expertise. Often times it is lack of focus. If you don’t understand your role or what the proper handoffs are you could be waiting on something you are ultimately responsible for. Lastly is accountability. You need everyone on your team to feel a sense of accomplishment for their deliverables.
HabitsEducation (Knowledge / Skill Gaps)Lack of FocusLimited or no accountabilityIdentifying the problemSo, obviously, as in any situation, your team can suffer from one, some, or all of these issues. Chances are if you are managing the team then you already know which ones apply. If you are part of the team, those that apply to your teammates are extremely visible. Your own faults, however, are probably much less evident. Ultimately it is up to the management team to lay the groundwork for how to accomplish your job and then it becomes much clearer to the team. Do you have anyone who is solely responsible for a single task? Is it because this persons role is unique or is it simply because they are the only one with the initiative or skill to produce a certain deliverable. What helps is to identify all the roles on a project. You can then line those roles up with your team. Estimate how much time each task should take. Figure out the inputs / outputs for each task and who the responsible parties are. Now extrapolate that for multiple projects over a year. What you may find is that your designers are doing to much front end development work before handing off to the developers (lack of focus). Maybe your technical lead is being brought in to every project for some complex library that only she understands (education). Your team members may not even realize that this is an expectation for them to understand this library (limited accountability). After switching tools certain folks might be using less than optimal techniques because “thats they way they have always done it” (habits),Changing BehavioursOnce you nail down where your problems lie you need to change those behaviors. How you do this can vary based on your team dynamic, what motivates them, etc. You may need to incentivize them, give recognitions, provide them with necessary training, whatever it takes. The important thing is that you make sure it is clear that something needs to change. Write up a lightweight project plan with the individuals and show them where the handoffs are. Emphasize what each individual is responsible for. Make sure it is clear which tools they should be using, what needs to be documented, and ask for feedback. Depending on the extent of the changes, this could be a very contentious conversation. This is where you are going to get arguments about what their job ‘should’ be. You need to stand firm in your convictions and make sure they understand your expectations for what they should be doing. It should go without saying that you should take any feedback under advisement and not disregard any comments or suggestions. This will be valuable as you implement the changes.Those who know me know that I love iteration. It is rare that anyone is going to get something 100% right on the first attempt. You can try and plan for every imaginable situation, but the truth is you’ll never think of everything and it will draw out the planning phase. At some point you have to execute. But it is very important that in these first few weeks you are closely monitoring your team, looking for bottlenecks, and adapting as you see fit. It is also important that you let the team know that you are going to be making changes. Have 15 minute stand up meetings with the team to make sure they understand the changes. Make sure that they are adapting by discussing with them one-one-one and as a team. SustainmentOnce you are happy with the process it is important that you sustain it. This means making sure that your team is following through and that you are able to easily onboard new members. Documentation is critical of course, but it is also important that you set certain goals and objectives to make sure they succeed. If you are not revisiting this with your staff members regularly and reinforcing the adoption of new tools, new techniques, and new responsibilities, you will fail. For those individuals who are unable to change, maybe it is time for you to look for other opportunities on the team for them that might more appropriately fit their skill set and motivations. Finally, it is important that you reward those individuals that are adopting the changes.