Why improving processes is a bit like cleaning your room

Let’s imagine for a moment that you never cleaned your room. What would happen? The immediate outcome would be that junk would start to accumulate.

First, it might be a few pieces of clothes left on the floor. Then your bed sheets start to come off the bed and are all in a tangle. Then dirt and dust start to build up. Maybe even mice and other little insects move in.

Eventually you’d have a hazardous mess. It would be hard to move. You might trip over things and hurt yourself. You’d never be able to find anything quickly. Your bed would be uncomfortable to sleep in and you’d end up tangled up in the bedsheets at night. You’d develop allergies you never knew you had.

In the end, you’d probably want to avoid venturing into your dirty and downright dangerous room as much as possible.

Junk and complexity build up over time...

It would add completely avoidable stress to your life. It would lead to negative consequences (for instance, if you tripped over a pair of shoes and cracked your head open on the bed). It would slow you down. It would wear out your possessions (that Armani suit you once cherished would end up a crumpled heap on the floor). Heck, not cleaning your room would probably destroy your love life!

So what does this have to do with process?

Processes can accumulate "junk" in a similar way. These are old ways of doing things, poor ways doing things lazy ways of doing things, overly bureaucratic ways of doing things. These are also unnecessary steps or that are wasted in the process.

If you don’t give these old, unnecessary and irrelevant working practices the heave ho once in a while, they start to build up, which slows everyone down. And don’t be deceived, process junk is just as hazardous to your organizational health as your dirty room is. Process junk makes your employees stressed and leads to less than desirable results for your customers (which will eventually be reflected in your bottom line).

So if the answer to "why do you do this" is "because that’s the way we’ve always done it" it’s time to start looking at giving your processes a good scrubbing down!

Maybe mom was right about the importance of cleaning house after all….