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Get the details of your processes right

There was a great need to sort out the details of a process that had been grinding away for many years. It constantly stirred up emotions and, despite successive ad hoc meetings, the problem was never resolved.

They thought they were in agreement

Göran had initiated a review of the process which brought together a number of stakeholders. It was a rather short meeting, as the problems raised were only discussed in general terms and some minor adjustments were made with some fuzzy wording.

At the final briefing, everyone nodded in agreement. Everyone agreed that this was the way to work in the future. They left the room in unison.

After several months, it turned out that they did not agree at all. The result was two things.

Some didn’t care if they got it right. They did what they thought had been agreed, which was in line with the way they had worked previously. In other words, they did what they had always done, which at the meeting felt so good, because the reason for all the friction was not that they were working incorrectly.

Others were more concerned and kept calling the others to ad-hoc meetings to solve the problems.

“In the dark, all cats are gray”

My mother taught me the expression “in the dark all cats are gray”. The meaning can vary, but as my mother taught me, it was that on some occasions we can’t see details because we don’t have the right conditions.

Physically, the expression is quite correct, as we cannot see colors and patterns in the dark, due to the wavelength of light and our eyes’ ability to see colors in the dark.

The gray cats are also present when we work in our businesses. At some levels, we all agree on how it should be. When we don’t get into the details, we can all nod and agree.

Now there will be a bad atmosphere

What causes friction is an unwillingness to get into the details. Because if we do that, the differences will show up and we think it’s easy to create a bad atmosphere. It’s sad when we think we’re having such a good time together.

It is the details that determine the overall picture, but when we don’t talk about them, we don’t have the right conditions to shape the overall flow. It’s easy to get a little fuzzy on what is said and documented.

In many of the meetings I have attended, issues have been glossed over because people want to move on or don’t want to spoil the good atmosphere by bringing up a sensitive subject.

Moving from vagueness to clarity

If you want to get rid of the fluff, you also have to get down to the details. Because that’s where you can be clear.

There may be some anxiety and bad feelings, but it will save a lot of future bad feelings if you get on the same page, for real, now, instead of glossing over things.

Freedom lies just beyond getting the details and structure right. Only then can you focus on creating value instead of being constantly annoyed that things are not right.

Digitalized processes

We at Clean Stream see this all the time when we help businesses digitalize their processes. I have seen for 25 years that when we work with “data”, as it was called before, i.e. what we now call digitalization, we need to be clear.

A computer program cannot be fuzzy. It’s either this or that. There is no “maybe”. Everything is either one or zero, i.e. digital.

You can also take this to heart when you digitize your processes, because then you come up with questions about what the different work forms should look like, or which business rules should apply where and how these rules should be formulated.

What could previously be fluid, fuzzy, vague and open to interpretation, much to the chagrin of the business, now needs to become truly clear. It is in this clarity that the strength lies.

Clarity is freedom and strength

When you are clear, you also create the aforementioned freedom to focus on value creation and not on surrounding annoyances.

And if there’s a detail that doesn’t work the way you or someone else wants, you can always bring it up for discussion. Then you are also very clear in the discussion.

Let’s say there is a certain business rule that is not working well, then the meeting will also be about how to design that rule. Not general and vague about “this is not working” or “we need to do something”, but straight to the point; very focused.

So for next week, think about some areas where you feel things are not working properly in your business. Summon those concerned and sit down to discuss the details. Don’t give up until you get down to the lowest level and agree on the details.

Because you will find that when you start discussing the details, something new is born in the room. Everyone becomes focused on sorting them out, as they lead to success for all of you. What you disagree on is not in the details. What makes you uncomfortable is that you don’t dare to discuss them for fear that something is sensitive. This is often not the case when you focus on each detail instead.

Wishing you a great week ahead.