Process is Habits for Business

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I recently re-read “The Process Component” in the book Traction by Gino Wickman. These two paragraphs summarize the chapter nicely:

A typical organization operates through a handful of core processes. How these processes work together is its unique system. To break through the ceiling and build a well-oiled machine, you need to possess the ability to systemize. That is what this chapter is all about: helping you systemize what you’ve built. You’ll discover different ways to improve upon your processes, simplify them, apply technology to them, and, most important of all, make them consistent throughout your organization.

Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth and The E-Myth Revisited, calls this your franchise prototype. To the degree you can clarify your systems and hone them, you will run your business as opposed to having your business run you. The culmination of identifying, documenting, and having everyone follow the core processes of your business is your Way. When you have a clear Way, you immediately increase the value of your business, strengthen your control over it, and give yourself options. From there, you may grow the business, let someone else run it, sell it, or simply take more time off.

Process, when well-designed and executed consistently by the entire team day-in and day-out, can build up and eventually compound the results of the business. I’ve come to see process as the equivalent of habits for business–by mindfully defining, tweaking, and consistently performing them, results become inevitable.

I can pinpoint the two things, from personal experience, that are most challenging about creating and sticking to good processes. The first is that designing processes feels very hard. It’s not that the actual work is tough, but overcoming the mental barrier and investing the time into what feels like non-urgent work requires a bigger cognitive load than, say, troubleshooting a project issue or writing off a rapid-fire response to a client. The discipline to focus and design processes is one that I’ve struggled with quite a bit. One way to overcome this is to work on process-related items first thing in the morning, when my mind is fresh and well-rested. I know that if I try to tackle process-related items in the evening, I’ll find myself resisting through procrastination. I’ve tried in recent weeks to schedule all process-related conversations to earlier in the day.

Sticking to process becomes tough when it feels like the process is always changing. I noticed this and let things go for a while, not bothering to ask what the underlying problem may have been. I’ve come to believe that process design has much to do with whether or not it’ll stick. If a process is too finely defined and overly prescriptive, it’s bound to become too burdensome and quickly irrelevant. Processes that are too loose lose utility because they don’t provide enough guidance. The sweet spot is process that provides just enough guidance and flexibility so that 80% of the elements are repeatable and the last 20% can be the “customized” component that allows for exceptions.

Bringing this back to how process and habits seem to serve the same purpose, I thought about the “core processes” of my life: how I eat (diet), how I exercise (fitness), how I sleep, how I learn, and how I interact with other people. These track very closely to the Foundation of Growth concept that we’ve been working on for Grove Ave and have defined as a “system of good habits.” By proactively designing, tweaking, and consistently following through on these “core processes”, it’s been possible to generate results (e.g. stay fit, feel energetic, avoid getting sick, be in a positive mood, be productive day-to-day, learn new things, enjoy time with friends and loved ones, etc.). Also, I’ve seen that when I veer away from a core process that’s been working well–say, I let things go and eat/drink things that don’t conform with the design–I don’t feel as good and I know something is amiss, which gives me a strong signal to self-correct.

It’s easy to see how things can go wrong if you don’t take processes/habits by the horns and instead let them form in arbitrary and reactive fashion. I’m hoping that as we continue to solidify our organizational habits and form robust processes across the board, we’ll confidently be able to talk about The Barrel Way and its immense value to the business.

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