Three-Steps to Meaningful Process Improvement


Earlier in my career, I joined a residential remodel start-up that a family member had founded.  When we had only one location, the company thrived. As we expanded into other locations, however, we spent years struggling to consistently deliver our brand promise of projects that finished on time and on budget.

After we failed to resuscitate a promising new business location, we knew something had to change.

We had lost money, goodwill, and, frankly, our confidence. We regrouped and vowed to avoid repeating those mistakes in future locations. My solution, unfortunately, was to spend months single-handedly documenting all of the company’s processes. I’m ashamed to admit that I did this without any feedback from the leadership team! I thought I’d help the company by capturing 100% of the steps in 100% of the processes for 100% compliance. In painstaking detail, I documented everything short of how to turn the door handle to enter the office. This time, I thought, we’re leaving nothing to chance!

I proudly presented my process binder “masterpiece” to the leadership team. Surprisingly, my colleagues did not throw a parade in my honor. Instead, no one ended up looking at it or using it. After a few weeks, even I forgot about it. My misplaced efforts ended up gathering dust on a bookshelf in my office. Meanwhile, our team continued working hard, but without consistent results. Fortunately, years later, we discovered EOS®!

The 3-Step Process Documenter™

Earlier, my friend and Process! co-author Mike Paton and I shared the anti-process mindsets that visionary leaders must overcome so that they can commit to strengthening the Process Component™ in their business. In my next two blogs, I’d like to help you take action by learning how to properly use the two EOS Tools: The 3-Step Process Documenter and The FBA Checklist. Today, we’ll focus on the first tool: The 3-Step Process Documenter.

As the name implies, this tool has three steps:

  1. Identify
  2. Document and Simplify
  3. Package

1. Identify your handful of core processes

This first step seems simple, but it’s not easy. Getting a leadership team to agree what IS and IS NOT a “core process” requires discussion, debate, and decisions. We start by helping teams understand the difference between a “core process” and everything else.

Very simply, core processes are the most important things your company does regularly. Most of our clients have 5-12, such as a Marketing Process, a Sales Process, a People Process, a few Operating Processes, a Customer Service or Retention Process, and an Accounting Process. They have called them something different, but they generally fall into some of these categories.

To get your team on the same page, start with a simple brainstorming exercise, build a (perhaps lengthy) list, and then keep, kill, and combine until you agree on the final list. Identify the team’s “process champion” and turn that list into your soon-to-be completed core process manual’s “table of contents.”

2. Document (and Simplify)

Once the team identifies and prioritizes its core processes, the logical owner (based on Accountability Chart roles) documents and simplifies their respective core process. Remember that we favor a 20/80 approach, documenting 20% of the major steps that will lead to 80% of the results. No need to pull out a calculator for this, but aim for one to three pages of documentation, not 123 pages (me: wiping a tear)!

In Process!, we share the series of steps that successful organizations have used to complete this work:

  • Observe
  • Evaluate
  • Simplify
  • Draft
  • Review and get approval from the leadership team

3. Package

Many leaders’ efforts to document and simplify core processes are wasted because they don’t effectively execute this final step: package. As leaders, we must make it easy for our people to use and find your processes.

Make It Easy to Use
Consider the format that would best serve the team using the process. Perhaps you need to communicate a process in a department where the people move quickly or the team members speak different languages. Is there another process for individuals who work at a desk? In the field? Our teams have considered options that include:

    • Checklists
    • Flowcharts
    • Screenshots
    • Apps
    • Videos
    • Posters
    • Visual factories

Make It Easy to Find
Once you have determined the correct format for each process, store them where your people can find them. Should you use a system that you already own (e.g., Google Drive, Sharepoint, YouTube), or is a third-party solution best? Taking the time to gather and package your work ensures everyone has access to the tools you have created.

As the team completes the documentation of its processes, the leadership team and the process champion should come up with a name for the overall collection of business processes. Some teams call it “The [ABC Company] Way,” while others call it “The [ABC Company] Playbook.” Have fun and be sure it reflects your unique company culture.

Discipline + Consistency = Freedom

In my own experience, after learning about the 3-Step Process Documenter, the leadership team and I committed to the collaborative journey of documenting and simplifying the company’s core processes and getting them followed by all (a tool we’ll discuss next). As a result, we gained greater discipline, results, and freedom.

If you’ve completed the three steps outlined above, you’ve finished the first of two tools that will unlock the benefits of process. Unfortunately, many leaders get stuck at this stage, but you will not find value until you get those processes followed by all (FBA). We’ll teach you the FBA Checklist next.

Free Chapter of Process!