Why You Need Greater Clarity of Process

man lost in a maze symbolizing lack of processWhen my parents died, their wills suggested an onerous process for dividing belongings among 5 siblings. But at least they provided a process!

They also indicated we were welcome to come up with a better process, if we so desired. My parents, who probably had something to do with my clarity(!), clearly knew the importance of having a process!

As executrix, I gladly proposed a better process. Being me, I’m pretty sure I would have done so regardless of whether or not it was my responsibility.

So I wrote up a simple process, explained it to all siblings, asked for opinions, and then got their signatures to confirm agreement before anyone began claiming anything.

The process worked smoothly. Success depended only on the thought invested by each sibling into their desires and needs. Everyone left with a combination of cherished and practical items.

There was one opportunity for dissension, however. I was the only one who had indicated a desire for the contents of the wine cellar! By the rules of the process, that made it mine. I let them howl for a minute, and then capitulated and agreed to take only one fifth. The alternative may have led to revolt!

The Value of Process Clarity

Whenever you want to accomplish almost anything that involves other people, it pays to have a process. The benefits are many:

  • Reduces conflict.
  • Allows everyone to participate to the best of their ability regardless of personal characteristics such as rank, position, experience, age, or gender.
  • Minimizes duplication of effort as well as dropped balls.
  • Frees people to disengage where they neither care nor believe they can contribute.
  • Increases commitment to any decisions or other outcomes of the process.
  • Produces better results a lot faster.

Following a clear process is like playing a game. Those who know the rules can either play or sit out. Those who don’t, can ask for an explanation and then play, observe, pair up with another player, or opt out altogether. The level of involvement and investment is at each individual’s discretion. It doesn’t matter whether the game involves the distribution of an inheritance or the purchase of items ranging from a candy bar to a home or making a meeting productive. When everyone knows how to play the game, they are more lively to do it well and support the outcomes.

Operating without such clarity leaves people guessing as to their roles and next steps. They don’t know whether to invent and negotiate the rules, observe quietly in an effort to learn, or just charge ahead in pursuit of their own objectives. They can’t maximize the value of their time and energy. When there is no process, nothing is predictable. And despite their best efforts, they won’t necessarily respect either the process or the outcome.

I think the value of process is probably pretty obvious. What I think few people realize is how often they operate without the benefits of a helpful process when one would be incredibly valuable.

How often do you have to guess about direction and next steps? How often do you find yourself jockeying for position or trying to direct the action so you can contribute effectively and so the outcomes are sound? How often are you sitting in meetings with no discernible process? How often are you involved in decisions where a process would save hours and hours while also producing better results?

Pay attention during your next few days at work. When are you following a useful process and when aren’t you? What’s the ratio? 50-50? 30-70? 10-90?