The People and Process vodcast Episode 1: Why do I need process if I have good people?

James Crawley: So Kirsten, you’re the process geek, answer me this question, why do you need a process if you have good people?

Kirsten Gibbs: Well, you might as well ask, why do you need plans if you’ve got good builders? Why do you need a school if you’ve got good musicians? Why do you need stage directions if you’ve got good actors? Everybody works better if they know what it is they’re trying to achieve. So that’s one reason to have process so everybody knows what it is you’re all trying to do together. The second reason is if you’ve got process, it’s much easier for people to learn. They get productive much more quickly. And actually, your process becomes your corporate memory. So as people leave and join the company, memory stays and goes along with you. And actually that memory is preserving your uniqueness as a business.

James Crawley: So you believe that with a good process, new employees tend to be more productive for your customers and your clients and the business quicker?

Kirsten Gibbs: Yes, because a good process is built around making and keeping promises for your customers. And when people know why they’re doing what they’re doing, as well as what it is they have to do, they get engaged in that much more quickly. And that helps them be more productive. And that stuff, why we do what we do and the way we do things around here, which is not the hard process stuff but the kind of culture, that’s much harder to pick up by osmosis. So if you can help people get to that quickly with process written down, then you’ll have more productive people more quickly.

James Crawley: So extrapolating that forward a little bit, does that mean you’ll have access to a wider talent pool of potential recruits because you don’t have to alarm people with comparable direct experience of your product or service to make them effective?

Kirsten Gibbs: Yes, apart from the fact that actually nobody will have direct experience because every business is unique. So even though you think another business is doing the same thing, they won’t be doing it the same way. So somebody always has to learn your way. But the real benefit of having process like this so that people learn it from your documented way of doing things is that you can then take calculated risks with the people that you take on. So you can employ for attitude and values and maybe go to the edge a bit of what is right for your business and that is going to give you real advantage over your competitors.

James Crawley: So thinking about those risks that you’re talking about there, what does the process do to protect your business for the long term?

Kirsten Gibbs: Well, memory as we said, but also consistency. People are doing things the same way more or less all the time. That’s always good for your business because customers are going to get a consistent service. Scalability is also better when you have process because if you have people managing processes and you need to expand the capacity of part of that process, then you just add more people. You don’t need to be adding more managers, which is just overhead essentially. And then lastly, once you’ve got a process in place that’s documented separately from the people working on it, then you’ve got scope for evolution. You can capture the evolution of that business over time because it will.

James Crawley: That makes sense, doesn’t it?

Kirsten Gibbs: Yeah. So James, as the people geek, tell me this, why do I need good people if I have good process?

James Crawley: So people add the emotion and sensitivity to a process. They bring it to life. So good people will spot flaws in a process or in a poor process and improve it. Whereas the wrong people will follow it blindly and possibly exacerbate the problem.

Kirsten Gibbs: Yes. Oh yeah. God, we’ve all been on the wrong side of that.

James Crawley: Absolutely.

Kirsten Gibbs: So can we then make the wrong people right with a good process?

James Crawley: Unfortunately, not necessarily. So it may be that people have the wrong skillset. It may be that they’re over-promoted, or it might be they’re just in the wrong job or the wrong company. However, with a good process, you’ve got a better chance of the business being protected in spite of having the wrong people. Because what you can do with a good process is highlight those wrong people as a natural byproduct of the process, which enables you to take actions to rectify the situation before it becomes critical.

Kirsten Gibbs: Yes. Okay then, so from a talent perspective, what would be the barriers for adopting a good process?

James Crawley: So good people generally will be receptive to a new process as long as they’re well thought out from both a business and an emotional standpoint. You don’t want to stifle innovation and free thought in your workforce. And so any process needs to allow for that. So if it doesn’t, that’s barrier number one. Your second barrier would be process that developed in isolation and without input from your team because it’s going to be hard to get adopted. Why is that? Because the team won’t feel any ownership of that process.

Kirsten Gibbs: Yeah. Okay.

James Crawley: So I think we both agree that processes can’t be imposed. They’ve got to be adopted. Processes must be empathetic to the business and developed in collaboration and not isolation. And processes can highlight strategic weaknesses within your workforce, which should be embraced, not avoided.

Kirsten Gibbs: Yes, absolutely. And process has to be about empowering people to do what they really want to do, which is take responsibility. Process is not about making people accountable, it’s about letting them take responsibility.

James Crawley: So then Kirsten, what’s a good process?

Kirsten Gibbs: What’s a good process? I think we’ll have to have another conversation about that one.

James Crawley: I agree.

Kirsten Gibbs: Cheers.