What Makes a Process Great?

In his book, Start With Why, author Simon Sinek makes this powerful statement: “People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.” As an entrepreneur, you may have followed Sinek’s framework for The Golden Circle — a bullseye-looking circle with three rings. The center ring is labeled “why,” the middle ring, “how,” and the outer ring, “what.” Sinek encourages businesses to start with “why” to figure out their reason for being, but to create harmony among all three rings, he suggests they must incorporate the discipline of “how,” and the consistency of “what.”

In my view, the discipline of “how” starts with having a great process, leading to the end result of a consistently excellent experience. But what makes a process great? I believe a great process has these seven characteristics:

  1. Simplicity. For a process to “stick” (e.g., be used consistently), it needs to be simple to follow. If the process itself is cumbersome or difficult to understand, people will find an end-run around it to avoid all the work the process creates. Processes should serve people, not the other way around.

  2. Documentation. A process won’t help anybody if it only lives in someone’s head. Having a documented process minimizes the potential for error, improves training, and provides a benchmark for your team.

  3. Thoroughness. No process is foolproof, but a great process considers multiple scenarios and includes contingencies for the unexpected. When creating a process, it’s important to test it against a variety of situations to see how well it holds.

  4. Consistency. In his book, Atomic Habits, author James Clear tells the story of college photography class, in which the professor divided the students into two groups. The students in one group were to be graded on “quantity.” In other words, the more pictures the students took, the higher their grades would be. The students in the second group were to be graded on “quality.” Those students’ grades would be based solely on the excellence of their work. At the end of the semester, the professor was surprised to find that the best photos did not come from the “quality” group. Instead, they came from the “quantity” students, who had practiced over and over, learning from their mistakes. Similarly, a great process gets better when practiced consistently.

  5. Compliance. Of course, a process can only succeed if the participants comply with it. But that’s not what I mean here. The process itself has to comply with — at the very least — a company’s own stated standards, as well as applicable laws and regulations. A process without compliance erodes trust.

  6. Communication. Communicating a process is a bit like a couple taking their wedding vows in front of all their family members and friends. By communicating their intent publicly, the couple implies that they expect to be held accountable to their commitment, and the same is true of a company that communicates its process.

In evaluating an adviser’s process, I encourage you to look for these characteristics. Can you understand it? Can all members of the adviser’s team explain it? Can the adviser demonstrate how the process is used consistently? What contingencies could be necessary when working with your situation? Being aware of, and knowing your adviser’s process helps you keep him or her accountable to your needs.

NewsWayne Titus