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Field Notes

Field Notes #62: A Process is Never Finished

A process is never finished

We’ve been looking toward the future here at Omniscient. We just had a team offsite that included some big conversations about the work we do, how we do it, and how we want to be doing it in the future. 

We’re in a period of growth, which means we need to think about ways to sustain that growth. We need to adapt to having more clients and more team members. Changes like these are exciting, and they’re also inherently an evolution of our whole company. It’s a good time to question the processes that our work rests on, and see if they’ll still serve us going forward.

To me, these conversations require inherent balance across different ways of looking at our work. We need one eye on future growth while doing work in the present, all while learning from the past.

Luckily, our team spends a lot of time documenting our processes. We talk about them in most meetings. We make flowcharts. We fill Notion bases.

We want to understand our processes fully so everything is intentional. Every member of the team is invited and encouraged to include their practices and observations in the documentation of our processes. Once we can see it all drafted in front of us, we make edits. 

Our process needs to be solid ground. This way, when we want to plant something new, we can break it.

How to know when the process should change

Beyond casual ongoing tweaks to a process, how do you know whether your process needs a bigger change? There’s a method of discovery to learn that change is necessary.

This usually starts when a problem arises. At our offsite, our Managing Editor, Sam, led a workshop on finding the root cause of a problem. 

Ask questions about why the problem happened in the first place. Specifically, ask five. 

For example, let’s say a freelance writer misses a deadline. 

  1. Why were they late? Because they didn’t know when their deadline was. 
  2. Well, why is that? Because the way deadlines are communicated to writers is inconsistent.
  3. Why? Each team member handles communication differently, and there’s a different approach for each client. 
  4. Why? Because there isn’t clear communication across your internal team on how to approach content production.
  5. Why? You don’t have time in your calendars to sync and coordinate action.

By the time you get to your fifth why, you’re likely to reach the true root cause of the issue.

Once you find your root cause, determine: Is the root cause related to your current process? Is there a pattern?

If this is a one-off issue, then treat the problem as an exception. See how you can use your process to help you move past it.

However, if you notice gaps in your process more than once, or you have strong reason to suspect that this same problem will pop up again in the future if something doesn’t change, it’s time to rework the process itself.

How to respond when the process changes

We continue to sing the praises of The Toyota Way and how it helps us develop and iterate on our process. The thinking behind this method forces us to acknowledge that things will always need to change. No process is perfect—it will always need further development.

And if change is a constant, that means change isn’t a sign of failure.

When it’s time for your process to change, respond with openness.

Whether or not you’re leading the change, disrupting your routine can feel like a chance for your work to become disorganized. But with a foundation of respect for all team members involved, it can be a smooth transition.

Again, it comes back to trust—if you can trust your team to carry out a process once, you can trust them to adopt a new one. 

Your team is made up of experts not because they’ve been that way their whole lives, but because they learned. They worked hard to gain new skills over time. Trust their expertise to be flexible. Trust them to continue learning and to bring that curiosity to the organization. 

This trust in one another is the center of any good process. And it’s what allows processes to improve. 

Embracing change with intention is where powerful growth happens.

Once you work with an understanding that your process will always be flawed, you may approach it with a sense of curiosity. There will always be more to do, more to fix, more to improve. Allow it to be a process of discovery—perhaps even a process of creation.

The growth itself is exciting, so finding the best process to get there can be exciting too.

Want more insights like this? Connect with me on LinkedIn.

  1. Content marketing in the anxiety era – Notes from Tracey Wallace on the age of anxiety and how to heal from it, with a content marketing lens.
  2. Automating SEO, Getting Executive Buy-In, and Career Growth Through Curiosity with Braden Becker – Check out this recent episode of The Long Game for a conversation about how curiosity plays into improvement.
  3. Field Notes #60: Upping your team’s editorial quality standards 🚀 – Nia recently shared another in-depth look at our editorial process, this time focusing on making the most of everyone’s expertise.