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Process as a Practice

Chad Crume, Director of Content Management, The BARBRI Group
Chad Crume, Director of Content Management, The BARBRI Group

Chad Crume, Director of Content Management, The BARBRI Group

Projects or operations focused on workflow and process involve minimizing inefficiencies and maximizing automation. Processes and workflows are identified or defined as having start and end states. How does B happen, starting from A?

  Planning for continual process development not only helps to sustain optimal efficiencies, but also allows the organization to adapt processes in sync with evolving technology, culture, priorities, and innovation.  

Much can be gained by also considering these workflows and processes as a practice. The word “practice” is chosen deliberately to capture two important aspects, emphasized in this definition taken from a Google search (which is sourced from Oxford Pocket English Dictionaries, I think):

prac·tice (n) 1. (The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method as opposed to theories about such application or use. 2. Repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.)       

Application = Putting into practice. Getting up to speed, working through the kinks.

When a new process, new methodology, or new technology is introduced, it generally takes several iterations before all participants adjust and the process is operating well. Plus, the new approach or toolset usually needs some adjustment itself to work best once put into use.

A roll out or launch date is a milestone transitioning from implementation to use. However, the project isn’t ready to be closed yet. The project plan should include a transition stage beyond the initial roll out which includes several iterations of the new process. These first rounds of application are key to getting the most out of the improvements envisioned during the design phase. Training and reviewing while participants are actually engaged with the process is far more effective than ahead of time. The collection of any process metrics can be verified while monitoring how well the process is ramping up to full operation. Minor adjustments can be identified and fine tuned. This stage begins when the new process is put into practice, and ideally extends maybe one to three iterations, with the goal of reaching the point where ROI is tracking as planned.

Repeated exercise = Practice makes perfect. Incremental change, continual improvements.

The definition cited describes it as “exercise”, which is a particularly nice way to look at it because exercise is used not only to improve but also to sustain ability. As with any technology we implement, it’s not enough to roll out the new tool; a maintenance plan should be put in place. Process improvements also need routine upkeep. Without it, optimizations can dissipate and expected efficiencies can be left unrealized.

But beyond upkeep, the fact that the processes and workflows we work to improve are repeated over and over is a great opportunity for continual improvement. Ongoing analysis of process metrics, routine participant reflection and feedback, and review of process alignment with business goals, all contribute to a backlog of potential incremental improvements or defects, which can be prioritized and addressed in small iterations. Planning for continual process development not only helps to sustain optimal efficiencies, but also allows the organization to adapt processes in sync with evolving technology, culture, priorities, and innovation.

Considering processes as a practice emphasizes actual application of the process and the impact of repetition over time, putting extra attention on the transition phase of a project lifecycle, and promoting a continuous approach to process improvement as standard operations.

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