Ambiguous business processes are a great breeding ground for mediocre performance.
Back in my days as a student, I had all sorts of jobs to earn cash over the holidays. I can recall being quite surprised at the lack of any formal guidance on what seemed to be quite important processes. I just expected that things would be clearly explained, step by step somewhere.
It makes it much easier to be avoid being held accountable for poor outcomes if processes can be challenged, because there is no agreed process. There are just so many options for leeway.
- I wasn't aware of that
- I've always done it like this
- This is how I was told to do it
- I couldn't find the instructions to follow... etc
Here are a few easy tests to check whether you're allowing ambiguity. Next time you attend a meeting in response to some bad event or quality incident:
1. Check if people are expressing differing opinions on how the process should have been performed.
2. If one of the outcomes is agreement to change a process, check if someone is responsible to change (and communicate the changed) process.
3. Check if the changed process is recorded in the one undisputed central 'place' that holds our agreed process knowledge. (If one even exists - to be effective it needs be referred to by teams as part of business as usual.)
The cost of clarity is minimal - the time taken to write down agreed processes, and communicate them in ways (and places) that teams actually find useful.
As Dave Mastovich summed up in his original blog on this topic:
Move off the path to mediocrity. Communicate clearly, reduce [process] ambiguity and make a commitment to excellence.