Process trumps power. It also squelches politics and individual habits, quirks, and dysfunctions.
What would happen if you were playing a common, well-known game like Go Fish or Crazy Eights and someone skipped your turn? You’d speak up, right? You’d say something like “Wait a minute, it’s my turn.” Or suppose someone tried to change suits with a seven instead of an eight. Would you let them? No way!
Would it matter if the person were a co-worker or the CEO? No!
Would it matter if the person were political, domineering, or a general jerk? No!
It wouldn’t matter if it were the Pope! Anyone in the game could speak up! “Nice try, but it doesn’t work that way!”
When people are following an accepted, clearly defined process, rank, power, and dysfunction are practically irrelevant. Everyone is capable of pointing out a mistake and no one is likely to take offense. Furthermore, everyone is able to play their part. They know when their turn is coming and what to do when it arrives. They are relaxed, eager, and participate with confidence. I call this “process clarity.”
You’ve undoubtedly experienced process clarity in games and on sports teams. You have probably experienced it on the job as well. This is especially likely during a “production line” activity where you are working with a familiar group of people on familiar, well-tuned tasks. You have shared goals, shared knowledge, and a shared vocabulary that keeps everyone in sync.
Picture one of those production line activities for a minute. Picture the productivity level. Picture how easily everyone does their part. Picture the feeling of flow. Picture how quickly you overcome obstacles. Picture the accomplishments. The mutual respect. The confidence. The pride!
Now think about all the time during your workday when this is not the case. When you aren’t sure where things stand or what comes next. When you are reluctant to speak up. When you have to jockey for position or bow to rank and dysfunction. When you have to guess at intentions and decipher comments. When it is not easy to contribute. When you can’t even tell if your contributions are valued. When you aren’t sure anything is really being accomplished. When there is no flow. Little confidence. No pride.
It doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to bring process clarity to every situation and create that same level of productivity, effectiveness, and commitment. Every single minute of the day. All you need is clarity!
1. Clarify your desired outcome.
What exactly are you trying to accomplish and why? Every process has outcomes.
2. Define the process.
A process is merely a series of tangible intermediate outcomes that add up to a tangible final outcome. What decisions, plans, problem resolutions, lists, and approvals create a path to your desired outcome?
3. Clarify roles.
Are you asking for input, a recommendation, or a decision? If you tell people which, they can participate more effectively and you avoid confusion. Be open and honest.
Clarity of purpose, process, and roles levels the playing field and allows everyone to contribute effectively. Practice these three steps every day, all day long. Without clarity, power and dysfunction win. Talk prevails. Action suffers. And talent is wasted.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com on August 7th, 2016.