Thursday 4 January 2018

Is “Process” creating a culture of mediocrity?

In today’s business culture we integrate and utilize technology into our daily processes and procedures. The use of computers and software is ubiquitous in our daily lives, both personally and professionally, over the last 20 years computers have revolutionized our daily lives.

In the design and construction industry, we use computers and software for all aspects of our processes and have developed standards to ensure consistency, quality and develop a level of efficiency which is a requirement of today’s client expectations and project demands.

Over the past number of years, as technology has developed and became a standard in everyday business, the focus has been on teaching software and the associated applications and processes developed to take advantage of the software. Our focus has shifted to learning the tools and not what we use the tools for. Basic skills are diminishing, having a negative impact on the quality of the deliverable, which we are using technology to help us deliver.

“Is the development of processes creating a culture of mediocrity?”

Through the development of these processes are we stifling ingenuity and the opportunity for innovation, are we eliminating the need for team members to take on responsibility and ownership of their tasks and responsibilities? Processes should balance between providing quality and efficiency, our goals when developing processes are to minimize risk and liability by controlling the outcome, resulting in risk mitigation and quality through consistency.
However, is this preventing innovation and improvement? By demanding rigidity through the development of processes are we limiting the opportunities to finding new ways to complete tasks and make changes for the better?   

The design industry is notorious for this conflux, we expect a high level of creativity and innovation combined with a need for high quality (risk mitigation) that utilizes digital tools and associated processes with the intent to create efficiency. However, with the focus on learning the tool, we are finding that we're losing the simple knowledge and skills that new employees desperately need.

“We do a great job teaching the tools but we're losing sight of why we use the tools.”

Do we want to get to the point where we are providing a “caution content may be hot” type label due to over processing? When developing processes we need to be aware of the fine line between limiting the ability to think for ourselves and the benefits of efficiency and quality control. We need to balance the need for standardization and risk mitigation with the freedom to change the process when required allowing for innovation and improvement. Let’s not bog down the process of creation by stifling creativity with overly constraining processes.

Review your process on a regular basis with your team and look for ways to streamline and make improvements. Consider changing processes to “guidelines” and look for feedback from the users. Let your team know that at any point they can reach out to you to discuss in an open and constructive manner any possible changes to the process that can make improvements. You will not only gain the respect of your staff you will also have improved adoption rate of any processes you implement. Don’t be strict on the enforcement of process, use processes as a guideline and reference to complete a task, this will give your team the confidence to propose changes for the better and the flexibility to make any necessary changes confidently to ensure the success of the project and the team.

There will be areas of any process that are required to be enforced, where projects cross international borders or between offices standards need to be consistent, enforcing these requirements will be respected as long as you make it clear why they are required and all involved understand the necessity and function of the processes. Standing behind these requirements will also gain you the respect of your team.

When we receive proposals for Architectural projects we accept the project requirements and find unique ways to incorporate the client's desires and project requirements all the while looking for opportunities to improve the aesthetics, functionality and efficiency of the design, resulting in the best possible outcome for the project. To be successful you need an equal balance of innovation and the structure of processes.