IT processes

Are Processes Killing Your Productivity?

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Every IT organization knows that good processes are critical to the success of a company. The right processes can improve efficiency and create an organized workflow. However,when taken to the extreme, processes can kill productivity and ruin your team’s morale.

Let’s take a step back and talk about processes and why they matter.

Processes are a defined sequence of tasks that keep the organization running smoothly. Processes provide organizations with a way to measure progress and productivity, which can help a team feel more efficient and accountable for their work. Standard processes create a consistency of work and provide a foundation for continuous improvement. Lastly, defined processes enable automation, which helps IT become more responsive to business demands.

So we can all agree that processes are a good thing in business. Except for they when they get in the way or go out of control. Many studies are showing that processes are beginning to hinder productivity across the globe.

In a study of U.S. and European companies, The Boston Consulting Group found that “over the past fifteen years, the amount of procedures, vertical layers, interface structures, coordination bodies, and decision approvals needed…has increased by anywhere from 50 percent to 350 percent.”

The same report found that in larger and more complicated organizations, managers “spend 40 percent of their time writing reports and 30 percent to 60 percent of their time coordinating  meetings.”

This does not leave much time to actually accomplish the work that needs to be done.

How can you tell if your process is working or if it is killing your productivity? There are a few ways you can test your processes.

1. Does the process accommodate all projects?

Processes cannot take a narrowly-defined, “one size fits all” approach. l. As an IT organization, your team is most likely handling a wide variety of projects. Your processes have to accommodate the variety of projects while at the same time providing needed consistency.   

Agility is just as important as having a standard process. Today, new technologies are coming to market at lightning fast speeds.Businesses are adopting technologies quickly and demanding that the IT department keep up with supporting these new technologies.

IT needs to be able to react quickly to these needs. If a process was not designed for agility or to accommodate the variablity found within a specific project, IT cannot react quickly. When you insist the process stay exactly the same for every project, you are asking your employees to try to sprint while attached to a ball and chain.

Too many organizations fall into the “process for process sake” mindset. They insist on maintaining every aspect of a process for every project, even when it doesn’t make sense.

If you find that your process has worked really well for some projects but did not work well for other projects, we recommend examining where the process stopped working. Take a look at the areas where flexibilty or a different approach is needed. Don’t lose sight of the end-goal for the process and the goals of the projects.

2. Are you focusing more on the process than the people?

No matter what innovative technology exists, it’s the people who make your business run, not the technology. Process should enable people to take advantage of the technology, not inhibit the use of technology.

When leaders focus too much on the process and ignore the needs of their team, the team doesn’t feel empowered to do their job effectively.

It’s not empowering when individuals are given more responsibility yet still have to obtain a large number of approvals and sign-offs to get anything done. This signals a lack of trust to your team.

Leaders need to start relying on their team’s expertise and experience just as much as they rely on the process. When you start to do this, you can often improve your processes because your team feels empowered to do so.

It’s critical to empower with action, not with permission. When your team is empowered to take action to get the job done, they feel a greater sense of pride in their work, are more invested in the project and more appreciated by their bosses.

When jobs depend on meeting metrics or process approvals, the creativity and innovation of teams suffer. The last thing you want is a team who can’t – or won’t – find ways to innovate and improve.

3. Are you relying on tools too much?

We’ve seen it time and time again. Organizations invest in a very pricey tool. They implement it one way and create a process around it and then they try to force that tool and process onto every problem that arises in the business.

Tools are fantastic but they are not problem solvers. People are problem solvers and your tools and processes should be built around the people and the problem that needs to be solved.

Processes built around tools are doomed to fail but processes built around problems and supported by employee action will always work.

4. Do you have process silos?

Organizations that are siloed will always struggle with processes. For example, what happens when IT has a process for onboarding a new employee and HR has their own process for onboarding and they are completely separate? Undoubtedly, it causes unnecessary extra work and possibly, some confusion for the new member who is being onboarded.

This is where cross-departmental communication and collaboration must come into play. Linking processes across departments and achieving buy-in from team members in both departments will avoid wasted time and energy.

Again, this will rely on your process being agile (see the first point) as you may need to adjust several of your processes to become cross-functional with other departments.

Work with other department leaders to understand their processes and determine how you can combine the two into cross-functional processes. Then clearly define and document these processes so that there is no confusion across teams.

5. Have you avoided process audits?

If you’ve learned anything from this article, we hope you’ve learned that processes are ever-evolving. They are constantly shifting to adapt to the growth of the organization and the specific project at hand.

So it’s necessary to perform regular process audits to ensure your processes are working to the best of their ability and improving the productivity output of your team.

How do you perform a process audit? It’s best to start by looking for any drops in productivity during the process or where output slows down. Additionally, monitor for signs of unhappy teams. Do you see resistance from the team at any certain stage?

Look at your processes and determine if any piece of it does not add value. If you’re unsure, speak with your team on this. Since they are using the processes, they will know what are the most valuable and impactful parts of it.

Let’s be clear on one thing: I am an extremely big fan of having documented, well-defined processes in your organization.

But I want to encourage you as the business leader to always be monitoring processes and keeping your eyes on the end goal and the people implementing and using the processes.

Focus on people and improving communication and innovation so that you can solve business problems. The process will fit naturally and be more powerful when they are viewed as the means to a goal and not the goal itself.

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