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What processes go undetected?

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

What processes go undetected?

Scott Miker

We all follow routines and process in life.  We all follow similar patterns.  This could be how we go to sleep at night, how we wake up, the drive we take to work, the way we drive our car, the way we respond to criticism, the way we strive to succeed, the way we respond to obstacles etc. etc.

But most people never pay attention to these.  They just take them all for granted and don’t realize how powerful these are.

In business scenarios you might assume that we pay more attention to the systems and processes around running the business.  This makes sense because many business people have learned to fine-tune the operations of their business or their department using this methodology.

But it still is a rarity for a business leader to have a good grip on the power of systems in their business.  They may have some general processes written up but more likely it is that things get done by people who just do it and have done it for so long they don’t have to think much about the process.

This is dangerous.  This can easily lead to poor practices that go undetected by the managers in charge of these processes and the people completing the tasks within these processes.

Many times throughout my career someone has come to me to ask about some of his or her operations.  It could be a small business start-up trying to get advice to be able to stay in business long enough to create a healthy small business.  It could be a high-tech startup looking at how they can scale.  It could be a big business that has a department or team that has numerous problems that need to be addressed and need help. 

It could be a business owner who knows that his or her staff is slacking.  They see the numbers of what is produced and wonder how so many people can do so little.  They feel there is a problem, they have data around it, but they are not close enough to really know what is going on.

Many times what I find is that they don’t have good processes for getting work done.  When I ask how does X get done, I get responses around people such as Joe does that or Sue has always just done that for us.

When I ask what Joe or Sue is doing, they stop and take me to Joe or Sue.  When I talk to them I usually get concerned looks and responses around well that is what I was taught years ago by Sam or I just send this to this vendor this way because nobody ever told me how else to do it.

While this isn’t always bad and we have to trust our people to be able to get their jobs done we certainly can’t expect to have any real quality processes or efficiency from this.  We can expect that most of the time it just gets done.

In our personal lives I see the exact same pattern.  We don’t evaluate our systems, habits, processes, routines etc. but expect that they are all perfect.

But if we take the time to evaluate these we will likely find areas that can be significantly improved.  Instead of waking up and watching the news for an hour and drinking coffee we can start to exercise or get to the office early or make a healthy breakfast.  Whatever we are doing to go after our goals, we will likely find times throughout our day that we could be doing something towards our goal but instead are just following an old, unhelpful pattern that just keeps driving us in the same old direction.  We just find ways to get it done.

But just getting it done isn’t enough for most goals.  We can’t just go through the motions and do the minimum to not get fired at work and expect high quality and efficient processes.  We can’t do that in our personal lives either if we want to reach new heights and find new ways to succeed.  If we keep doing the same thing we have always done, we will get what we have always gotten.