If no one uses your process, it’s time to dig deeper and do better!

I long ago lost count of the many conversations I’ve listened to where some frustrated HR person was complaining that ‘no one uses their people process’. The theme is always that the fault lies on the side of the recalcitrant/lazy/silly (insert your favourite word) person who won’t use the process. In my experience, that’s just not correct. If no one uses your process, it’s almost always about the process. You will need to dig deeper and do better.

Why bother with people processes at all?

There are five core people processes that hold organisations and culture. They set expectations and design work (Performance), give feedback and guidance on growth (Development), reward and recognise great performance (Reward), support transitions, transformation and change (Change), and they ensure the right people join and get promoted (Talent).

Get those five organised well – as simple, consistent processes – and add the right values and some decent leadership, and that architecture will hold your organisation and your organisational culture in a great way. People will know what to expect, what to do, and how to do it.

Do we have to have processes?

Like everyone, I admire that amazing talent or craftsmanship that can achieve something special. A great idea. Executed perfectly. With a brilliant outcome.

A great result is delivered, and a potentially great business is born.

There may have been a little luck involved – there usually is – but all in all, we admire the mastermind. The artist. The craftsperson.

But it’s just the beginning.

To be more than a one-person show, or even a small team show, at some point, you’ll need to know what you did in ways that you can explain it to someone else, teach someone else, and have them do it again, as well, or even better than you did it in the first place.

And this is what process engineering is all about.

There’s an art to doing something really clever once.

Even twice.

But the real art is making it so other people can do over and over.

The Two-Part Definition of Process Engineering

When I start to talk about my great love of process engineering, eyes glaze over. But if you can bear with me for just few paragraphs, I’ll give you just a little background.

Process engineering is the understanding and application of the fundamental principles and laws of nature that allow humans to transform raw material and energy into products that are useful to society, at scale.

OK, so the definition is a true engineering one, rather than a strictly business one, but the principle is right. To paraphrase – and risk the wrath of engineers everywhere – understanding fundamental principles, and laws of nature, to allow production at scale.

That’s Part One.

Let’s add Part Two, which is Process Design.

Process Design is the process of creating and improving systems that understand how work is done within an organisation, and then designing and implementing ways to improve it.

And it’s the combination of process engineering and process design that makes things scalable and effective, and the only way where that very clever idea, or achievement, becomes something that hundreds, even thousands of people can join you in doing successfully.

5 key questions for every process

There are five quick questions to check your newly designed people process:

  1. Is it effective? Does it make my job easier/better/more successful when I use your process?
  2. Does it make my team or organisation more successful/more attractive/more competitive when we all apply the process?
  3. How long does it take? Does it fit into our working days? Will I be willing to make the investment of time, given that it will help make my job easier/more successful?
  4. What’s the experience? Is it easily understood and applied? Is it intuitive or have I got sufficient instruction?
  5. What happens if I ignore it? Are there any problems if it’s ignored?

Answering these questions as follows, is a great place to start. The answers should be:

  1. Yes, its effective. It works and delivers as promised.
  2. Yes, it makes a difference to the team and/or organisation.
  3. It takes exactly as long as promised, and commensurate with the promised impact. If it’s a small impact, 5 minutes is a good process. If it’s a bigger impact, longer is OK.
  4. Yes, it’s easily understood and applied. You don’t need a lexicon or pages of detailed instructions. If you want everyone to apply it, the process needs to be intuitive and self-contained.
  5. If you ignore the process, your job will be harder, or less successful.

If no one wants your process, look in the mirror first.

It is surprising when you talk to people who have designed a process that people don’t want to use. Their complaint is that “people won’t do what they’re told”, or “they won’t listen to instructions”, but that’s naïve.

If people don’t like or use your process, chances are it’s a poor process.

Going back to the five questions:

  1. It’s not effective and doesn’t help me do my job or make it easier.
  2. It doesn’t help the business, and there’s no positive impact on the team or customers.
  3. It takes longer time than you promised.
  4. It’s hard to apply and not easily understood.
  5. There are no consequences. 

A good effective process will be grabbed and applied quickly.

When your process is not being used, go back to the drawing board, dig deeper, think harder, and do better 

If you design a great process you’ll know.

It will not only be used it will be loved, recommended, and repeated a thousand times over.