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Routines Create Consistency in Your Organization

Monte Wyatt & Brad Sugars, Feb 13, 2020

When you recognize and create new processes with a set list of steps and expectations, consistency depends on workers following that list to the letter.

Checking off each step as it's completed means there is accountability: did the process fail for some unknown reason, or because someone didn't do what they were supposed to do? In a process where different people perform each step, a checklist enables you to determine where the problem occurred.

Here are various kinds of checklists that you can use in your organization:Â

  • Task lists. These are step-by-step inventories of standard operating procedures that people have to follow in a specified order to achieve a pre-determined result.
  • Troubleshooting lists. These outline the steps to take when things go wrong.
  • Coordination lists. Use coordination lists to manage complex projects involving many people who perform different tasks.
  • Discipline lists. These catalogue procedures that prevent faulty decision-making.
  • To-do lists. Use to-do lists to manage time and priorities.

Checklists are helpful in ensuring that people do things correctly, and in identifying who was responsible for things going off the rails.

For this reason, lists and the processes they document may cause people to reject the process for a variety of reasons. But before you jump to conclusions and blame the individual involved, ask yourself four questions:

  • Did we train them on our process?
  • Is our process correct?
  • Is the employee willing to follow our process?
  • What exactly is the process?

An employee can only control one part of this: a willingness to follow the process. The other three questions are the responsibility of your organization and managers.

An employee can’t be held responsible for following a process that doesn’t exist. And we find that when managers have no processes to manage, they try to manage people instead, leading them to complain that their team is unpredictable and wants to do things their way. The thing is, you don't manage people: you manage processes that people follow.

So it's natural that people will complain: Without a process, what other way is there?

Around 80% of what most employees do every day is the same, day in and day out. Routines are good, because they free us from devoting too much mental energy to them. When we're on autopilot, we can quickly do the things that crop up on a regular basis. This saves our brains for the other 20% of tasks that need some creativity to perform.

A good routine frees you from the endless series of small decisions that consume time and energy. It brings order and predictability to the day. And the things that don’t happen regularly can still be made routine through processes that we consult when needed. That way, brain power is reserved for meaningful challenges.

To recap, after you've created processes with steps and expectations, consistency depends on workers following that list to the letter. Checking off each step means there is accountability: did the process fail for some unknown reason, or because someone didn't do what they were supposed to do?

We'd love to hear from you. What kind of checklists does your company use? Thank you for sharing.