In the past 24 hours, I have experienced 3 incidents where process has trumped progress. I take this as a sign that there is a blog post waiting to be written.

The first incident occurred yesterday. A system I use went through a “significant upgrade” to improve the user experience. Unfortunately, in doing so, the system lost notes I entered immediately upon hitting the ‘save’ button. The system that had worked well for me for the past two years no longer did one of the primary tasks I’d purchased it to do.

The second incident happened this morning. A request I submitted last week was delayed in the system because a form along the way had not been attached properly. So, despite having had all of the information since last week, because the form didn’t arrive until today, the 3 day standard turnaround of reviewing and approving the request only begins now. This process issue will have delayed my ability to move forward by more than a week.

The final incident just happened. Over the weekend I had gone into a store to purchase an item that had been noted as “in stock” on the website. This, it turned out, was inaccurate but I was told to call during the week and speak with a manager and they could order the item to be shipped to the store. Upon calling the store, I was transferred to a manager who, upon looking up the item, explained that she did not have the authority to order the item and that I would need to call back to speak with the store manager. Mind you, the item I am looking to order is not a specialty item.

What I am struck by, in each of these cases, is the blind adherence to the process. We have forgotten that processes are meant to facilitate, not impede progress. And, when they do, we should take a hard look at how the process may need to be revised. Otherwise, we may run the risk of subverting the very thing the process was put in place to support. Looking back at the three examples I’ve offered,

  • If the system can no longer be relied on to do what it was purchased to do, rather than improving user experience, they may lose customers.

  • If the approval chain is meant to ensure checks and balances but becomes lengthy and cumbersome, the window of opportunity being presented may, itself, be lost.

  • If the procedure to procure items on behalf of the customer requires too much effort on the part of the customer, those sales may go to a competitor.

How often do you pause and reflect on whether the processes in place in your workplace are fulfilling their intended purpose? And, if not, have you taken the actions to bring them into alignment?