Clarity Break™ Thoughts for Entrepreneurial Leaders

Igniting your Passion…for the Process

Go ahead. I’ll wait until you stop laughing. Or rolling your eyes. Or shaking your head.

You see, this Clarity Break™ is actually written for all of us Visionaries, and it’s essential. When implementing EOS®, strengthening the Process Component™ is just as vital as strengthening any of the Six Key Components™. And yet – when mentioned in a session or a workshop – the reaction isn’t exactly what I’d call enthusiastic.

Oh sure, we Visionaries can get plenty fired up about solving frustrating People issues or instilling discipline and accountability to gain real Traction. But we seem to have little or no passion for strengthening the Process Component. So when we hear about it – we tend to tune out, push back, or just…yawn. That’s a dangerous mistake (assuming you want to run a better business and live your ideal life). 

I’ve been thinking a lot about that over how to change that mindset recently, and have discovered four myth-busting truths that will help Visionaries like us find real passion for strengthening the Process Component.

Truth #1: You LOVE Process more than you know.

Yes, “Love” is a very strong word – and perhaps not at all the emotion you were thinking of. The truth is, many Visionaries (and other leadership team members) would more accurately say they “hate” the idea of documenting, simplifying and getting their company’s Core Processes followed by all. When entrepreneurs reflect on their journeys, few would acknowledge discipline around process as the key (or even one of the keys) to their success. Passion, hard work, creativity, flexibility, grit…those words come to mind naturally. The word “Process” certainly does not.

If you share this anti-process bias – you’re not alone. For the last three years, I’ve asked dozens of audiences to raise their hands if they consider themselves “process-oriented.” No more than 20 people (of more than two thousand) have raised their hands. So, I always ask a follow-up question:

“How many of you are hard-wired as ‘maximizers?’ In other words, you are keenly aware of everything you do, and of what works and what doesn’t work. So, when you do something that works, you tend to repeat it. And when you do something that doesn’t work, you decide – perhaps subconsciously – to never do it again?”

In response to THAT question, 90% of the hands in the room shoot skyward. Because while none of us wants to kill the creative, nimble, entrepreneurial spirit of our businesses – we do want everyone to learn from our mistakes and do the most important things the right and best way every single time. In a company running on EOS, that’s exactly what strengthening the Process Component is all about. So please, I beg you…LOVE it. Because if you don’t – nobody else will, either.

Truth #2: You must HAVE discipline to INSTILL it.

This is where a lot of well-intentioned efforts to strengthen the Process Component stall. Because like anything – if it isn’t a visible priority for (and passion of) you and your leadership team – it’s not going to get done. If it does get done, it won’t stick and/or won’t have the positive impact you expected.

That’s why it’s so critical that the entire leadership team, including the Visionary, spearhead and stay fully engaged in documenting, simplifying and getting your company’s handful of Core Processes followed by all. You can’t outsource it, or delegate it to subordinates. You can’t create your company’s “way of operating” and then let it sit on a shelf collecting dust. You must own and drive the initiative from start (identifying your handful of Core Processes) to finish (completing the FBA checklist for each Core Process and then updating those Processes and repeating the checklist as necessary).

This seems a daunting, perhaps soul-crushing task when you’re thinking about a 500-page SOP Manual. It’s much more do-able in an EOS company where we use the “20/80 approach” – focusing on the 20% of the steps in our handful of Core Processes that will get us 80% of the results. It’s still a lot of work, but if YOU are disciplined and provide your full support – truly strengthening the Process Component will reduce mistakes, improve results (including growth rates and profitability), make your customers and employees happier, and make your business easier to run. It’s just plain worth it.

Truth #3: Process need not destroy AGILITY.

For Visionaries, nothing seems more unwieldy and downright depressing than running a large corporation or government agency. If you think about the way those organizations manage process – it’s all thick binders full of overly strict policies demanding compliance from everyone at the expense of common sense and good judgment. Let’s face it; nothing evokes less passion and enthusiasm than the endless lines and dreary, regimented clerks at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

That’s why leaders avoid the Process Component with words like “red tape,” “bureaucracy,” and “robots.” But strengthening the Process Component actually INCREASES agility by making the basics automatic – so they require less time, energy and thought from everyone, including you. That frees people up to use their own personal style and judgment to do something truly amazing for a customer, a co-worker, or the future of your business.

This is what Isidore Sharp, founder of the Four Seasons hotel chain meant by “systemizing the predictable so you can humanize the exceptional.” The key to this approach is simplicity and restraint – boiling each Core Process down to the bare essentials and not overly scripting every last detail. A great example of that is a “Guest Service Process” commonly used in the hospitality business – the 15/5 Rule:

1. GREET approaching guests at 15 Feet with eye contact, a smile, and a wave or head nod.

2. Say HELLO and offer help at 5 feet.

Note this two-step process leaves everything but the basics up to a “Right Person in the Right Seat.” If there WERE a third step, it would be something like:

3. DELIVER at least what the guest expects, more whenever possible.

That’s the EOS approach. Document only the steps that need to be repeated every time to get consistently good results. Train everyone who does even one step in the process, and invite them to use their best judgment or ask for help if something unexpected comes up.  Ultimately everyone will have mastered the basics and be using common sense, experience, and agility to do exceptional things quite regularly.

Truth #4: “KIND OF” will KILL YOU.

Even when teams accept these first three truths and begin working to strengthen the Process Component, they often lose focus before the work is complete. That’s a killer, because until your Core Processes are documented, simplified and truly followed by all – you may actually increase everyone’s workload and decrease the consistency and quality of results. Think of a golfer changing her natural swing – you’re not “done” with the project until the new swing feels natural and automatic.

So, “DONE” looks like this:

  • You and your fellow leaders agree completely on what your handful of Core Processes are and what you’re always going to call them.
  • One at a time, a leader works to get each Core Process documented, simplified and approved by the leadership team. That means your team reviews and thoroughly understands your 1-3 page Process and agrees that THIS is the right way to do this Process every single time.
  • You then create a Core Process Manual (in print or electronically, whichever you prefer). Most of our teams refer to this as the “ABC Company Way” of operating, but you may title it anything you choose.
  • Finally, you get each Core Process “Followed by All” using the FBA Checklist.
    • TRAIN everyone who touches even a single step in the process until each person clearly understands how it should work every time. You choose the training method (classroom, online, OJT, ride-alongs, etc.).
    • MEASURE (using the appropriate scorecards and measurables) to ensure people are:
      • Following the Process (compliance)
      • Doing it often enough to get the desired result (frequency)
      • Getting the desired results consistently (outcomes)
    • LMA™ (Lead and Manage) in a way that drives accountability for doing things right, doing them often enough, and getting consistently excellent results.
    • UPDATE each process regularly (we recommend once per year). People, your business, your industry and the world change. Make sure it’s still clear, simple, and as efficient as it can be. Look for ways to streamline by eliminating or automating steps. If you make significant changes, you may need to re-TRAIN, adjust what you MEASURE, and equip your managers to LMA the revised Core Process.

So, there it is – four irrefutable TRUTHS to change your mindset about strengthening the Process Component. Because what seems like a ton of work and bureaucracy may actually be the KEY to getting what you want from your business!  Because when you’re 80% strong in the Process Component, you go to bed every night confident that the most important things are being done the right and best way EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

What could ignite more passion than THAT?!

Stay focused,
Mike Paton

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