Troubleshooters.Com and Steve Litt's HR Tips Present

The Power of Process

Copyright (C) 2007 by Steve Litt



As a Human Resources professional, you hear complaints about employee productivity. Many productivity issues aren't controllable by the employee: Lack of tools on a timely basis, poorly designed work flow, inefficient work environment, and bad software to name a few. Occasionally the employee is just plain lazy. As a Human Resources professional, you know how to handle such situations legally and with minimum risk of litigation.

And sometimes productivity is controllable by a good, industrious employee. She'd be more productive, if only she knew how.

This is a training issue, but what kind of training? Good news: It's often low hanging fruit. All that's necessary is for the employee's tasks to be described as a process. Read on...

Humans are more productive when they follow a process. If an activity is defined in terms of a process, people find that activity easier to master. Even if an activity varies each time it's performed (invention would obviously be one such activity), the more of it can be defined in terms of a process, the more productive people become at that activity.

A process shouldn't be viewed as cast in concrete. Sometimes the activity performer needs to go back to a previous step or branch out and do something not currently defined in the process. That's OK, to the extent that it doesn't create a safety concern or gross financial concerns.

Process is the template by which we humans complete our accomplishments.

Who's This Steve Litt Guy?

I'm an authority on process, or at least one specific process: The Universal Troubleshooting Process. My troubleshooting course was originally based on four tools, but when I expressed the same principles as a ten step process, acceptance and understanding skyrocketed.

Having mastered one process, I read books on generic problem solving, Root Cause Analysis, Theory of Constraints, and sales. I've learned that process is the key to productivity.

Humans understand process!

See For Yourself

Don't take my word for it. Look at your own life in Human Resources.

There's a specific process for firing someone. Another specific process for hiring them. One might argue that these activities are process-oriented for legal reasons. So let's consider other activities.

When you need to update a manual, do you just sit down and start typing, or do you use a process? Do you decide what needs to be said, and then perhaps put it in an outline, and then decide in which manual it belongs and where to put it in that manual?

When you converse with an employee, do you use a process? Do you start with small talk to put them at ease? Do you look for ways to balance constructive criticism with praise? Do you end with a list of action items and buy-in from the employee?

The next time you attend any kind of training, see if the instructor puts it in the context of one or several processes. If so, write them down, and after class ask yourself why the instructor chose those steps in that order. Ask the instructor too. If the instructor didn't present it as a process, try to translate the material into a process, and see if it makes it more understandable.

Start being aware of what you do, and ask yourself whether you're following a process. Ask yourself whether you could improve the process, and if so, how.

Process is a lot like policy. It can be overridden if necessary, but it's a darned good start, and saves a lot of thrashing about on tasks repeated over and over.



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