The process of making processes

Let me share with you a piece of time-saving and frustration-eliminating advice: You need to establish and write down the process you use for everything you do more than twice. In fact, you need a process for making processes!

For example:
Have you ever had to listen to yourself repeat the same instructions over again to coworkers? Or have you struggled to remember how to complete a task you last tackled a month ago?

Here’s another example:
Let’s say you need a team member to take over some of your tasks because you’re moving on to another project. To you, the tasks have a lot of moving parts, but it all seems simple enough. You describe how you do the tasks, show examples of your work, and explain the general idea. As you leave, you tell them to contact you if there’s any questions.

A week later, you find everything is a total mess. To you, the tasks were simple, for anyone else, they were a confusing nightmare.

Does any of that sound familiar? So, what happened?

It probably means that your team member needed you to establish a written plan that documented the steps involved in every process.  

Your success lives or dies by the quality of your processes

A thorough set of processes is what separates success from an embarrassing shamble.

It may sound boring and bureaucratic, but so is explaining the same task over and over again. And, the great thing is, you can create processes for pretty much anything.

In a nutshell, a process is a set of instructions for carrying out a specific task.

Here’s a quick overview of how you should establish and document your processes:

The process for making processes

Creating a process involves three overall phases: Creation, Testing, Optimization.

In the Creation phase, the best person to write up a process is the one currently performing the task itself. Someone with experience doesn’t just know a way to do it, they know the best way to do it.  

Let’s say the best person for this task is you, so first, write down how you do the task, don’t leave out any of the steps.

It’s best to structure the steps first into a high-level overview. Then break the steps down into smaller items. Next, meticulously detail each small item—you can even include images, photos, and videos to record each detail.

Next, in the Testing phase, have someone follow your written process exactly—not deviating from it or using their own knowledge. Make edits to anything that needs to be clarified. Act on their comments about what is unclear.

In the Optimization phase, formally implement the process, letting employees edit and clarify the process as necessary.

As a rule of thumb, I recommend you formalize processes for any tasks you do more than twice. Make sure to use the Creation, Testing, and Optimization phases to establish your processes.