Consider these pitfalls before you redesign or streamline.

When you hear your organization wants to simplify, focus on efficiency, or increase speed, the first thing that undoubtedly comes to mind is process…process…process.

But it’s not always that simple.

Here are three myths to consider before you dive into the deep end of the process pool.

Myth #1: Process negatively impacts culture.

Employees often think that adding processes will dampen their unique culture — especially in small businesses, nonprofits, or creative environments. People think a focus on efficiency will stifle creativity and turn them “corporate cogs” – the exact thing they likely ran from.

But, if done correctly, the opposite is true. When processes exist, employees can spend less time hunting for breadcrumbs of past processes or recreating processes. Efficient processes actually free up time to spend on employees’ areas of expertise and time to innovate and create.

Truth: Processes set you free so the culture can thrive.

Myth #2: Processes are locked in.

Sometimes, we get stuck on a hamster wheel and forget to pause, reflect, and fine-tune our processes. This happens for several reasons:

  1. This is how it’s always been done.
  2. There is great comfort in the familiar.
  3. We have too much on our plates and little time, especially time to spend on updating processes.

But in an era where innovation is king, organizations must constantly stretch, innovate, and grow. This means processes need to adapt and change to reflect the current and future states of the organization.

The amount of time spent on updating processes will easily be less than time spent fumbling through outdated processes.

The idea is to get to the finish line faster, cleaner, and more efficiently.

Set recurring dates to review and update processes. You’ll make molehills out of mountains, fostering an environment that celebrates agility and innovation.

Truth: Processes are never set in stone. Focus constantly on doing better.

Myth #3: A new process always wins.

Here’s the scenario: Work is a slog. There are too many activities all over the place and a general lack of clarity. A well-meaning group of employees attempts to fix it ALL with one 52-step process full of clicks and ticks, dips and dives, and giant U-turns.

While their intentions are admirable, the new process is exhausting and confusing; employees are now spending more time on administrative tasks and less on what matters.

So, what happened? There are a few possibilities:

  1. Key people were not at the table. Every team that owns part of the process, and everyone downstream of the process, should be involved. It’s also important to have people who think differently review the process before rolling it out. They might catch something; maybe the process doesn’t reflect the organization’s “customer first” value because it adds unnecessary tasks to the customer experience. Or, they might realize that the “52” in the 52-step process is a red flag – it will crush your people’s souls.
  2. The new process starts downstream, not at the source of the problem. If I need to drive my car to the store but the car is out of gas, painting the car red and filling the tires won’t get me to the store. You can try your best to shine your part of a broken system, but it will still be broken if you don’t start where the breakdown begins. If the problem is a lack of clarity and consistency from the top, start there.
  3. A formal process wasn’t the right solution. Could it instead be solved with a simple document that provides employees with “if this, then that” steps to guide them through their work? Or is this not really a process issue? Is it a training or engagement problem?

Truth: It’s best to look at the problem from all angles. Take a breath and ensure you’re addressing the right thing, at the right time, with the right people.