“Do you have a process?”

I was asked an open-ended question by a Department Director recently: “What is your process?”

Of course, “process” in his question related to my roles and responsibilities at the time. But the purpose of that discussion went far beyond a simple review of doing my job.

In the context I’m using today, “process” refers to the planning, habits, and methods that deliver results when followed appropriately. A process used by a litigation attorney is going to much different than a process used by a manufacturing foreman. Make no mistake, though, just because the components of a process may be different from one person, role, or profession to another, this does not diminish the importance of a solid process for each.

After describing my process to the Director, he then asked me a series of questions relating to my process, why I did things a certain way, and what I was hoping to accomplish by incorporating certain activities. In the middle of this discussion, he paused and asked me this:

“Why is it important to have a process?”

At first thought, I felt my process was important because I didn’t want to embarrass myself or be unprepared in my role. As he probed deeper, however, I learned something profound: Process enables one to improve. Without process, improvement is virtually impossible. Process allows us to isolate components that may be tripping us up, stunting results, or limiting growth. You can “fix” results by “fixing” your process. However, you cannot “fix” your results if you have no process at all. Where do you start to tweak if you have simply been winging things all along?

Consider the following example:

Many in sales have experienced or studied the “sales funnel.” How many people are you contacting? How many contacts turn to prospects? How many prospects end up buying from you? What’s your percentage of contacts that become prospects? What percentage of prospects actually buy? By examining how a salesperson moves a client from “contact” to “prospect” and from “prospect” to “sale,” the salesperson can isolate opportunities for selling and earning more.

The beauty here is that process doesn’t necessarily need to be a “one size fits all” model. Our process can and should incorporate our strengths and skills, utilizing these assets to deliver results.

Teams that consistently achieve excellent results rely on consistent processes. Whether we’re examining Alabama football under Nick Saban or Apple under Steve Jobs, processes are clear and followed.

Regardless of your role or career, there is a process that you follow to achieve results.  

Consider the following activities:

1. Write down your Key Result Areas. What metrics must you meet in your role? How do you know if you are successful? If you don’t know these yet or have not yet identified them, utilize those around you (friend, co-worker, spouse, boss, manager, etc.) for clarity.

3. Write down the process you currently use to achieve results. It doesn’t matter if you are in sales, athletics, customer service, or parenting. Write down what you do to achieve a key result Identified in Step 1.

4. Identify one component of your process that really “works.” You know it works because you get results when following this portion of your process. What makes this component successful? Why does it work for you? Does it work for others?

5. Identify one component of your process that needs improvement. Where are results potentially lacking? How can you change this component of your process to deliver better results?

6. Make yourself accountable to someone other than yourself for improving your Key Result Areas by improving all or portions of your process.

You may be surprised to learn how much of a process you already have. Utilize your answers from the five questions above to take your results to the next level.