How To Hone Your Process

How to Hone Your Process

I was introduced to Ben Weis, Director of Strategy at A Hundred Monkeys, through a friend from college (Hi, Liam!). Ben has been fine-tuning the internal processes at A Hundred Monkeys since 2011, helping the naming and branding agency run better, faster, stronger. This week, he shares steps to hone your own personal process with the help of a famous face. I'll let Ben explain.


McDonald’s serves a mediocre cheeseburger, Rolex puts together a fine watch, and Tom Hardy looks good in every movie he’s ever been in. We know this because they’re consistent. Consistency isn’t a mistake, it’s born out of having a process (or good genes).

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Every company and employee has a process. Some processes are built to produce uninspired burgers, others, superb watches. We're creatures of habit and in a professional setting those habits turn into processes: efficient and repeatable ways of giving clients a consistent product or service.

You’ve heard this before. You know it’s important, but how do you hone a process and keep evolving it so you become Tom Hardy?

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Step 1: Pretend you’re about to franchise
McDonald’s sells crap, but it’s consistent crap. Scary consistent—which is why they’ve been successful. They have a system in place for everything and it’s written down in a way that's easy to teach.

For you, this is step number one: Take what you do, whatever it is you do, and write it down. Everything. Yes, everything. The idea is to pretend you’re about to open up 1,000 more offices and you need to be able to quickly train 10,000 new hires on what it is you’re doing. This forces you to objectively walk through all the steps of your process and lay it out in a way that’s digestible.

For McDonald’s, it’s going to be pretty straightforward. For Rolex, not so much. But you damn well know that each of these companies have written down all the steps of how to make what it is they make so that a new employee is able to quickly learn. If you nail this, it’ll help you be more efficient and establish a baseline for how to improve. Beyond that, it’ll help you and your agency grow, and keep your offering consistent.

Step 2: What gets measured gets managed
Pick a single quantifiable measure that defines your success and track it. It could be anything. Maybe it’s standard stuff like hitting project-specific targets or producing 36 widgets when last week you made 31. Or a more intangible quality like client happiness, working with cool people, or how happy you are with the work being produced. All of this is quantifiable and it’s up to you to decide what's most important.

Once you pick it, track it—and track it regularly. That way, when you are or are not successful, you can understand how you might tune your process to set yourself up for success the next time. You might run experiments to actually know if they’re working as opposed to trusting a gut feeling or winging it. Yay spreadsheets, but seriously, yay spreadsheets.

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Step 3: Iteration through feedback
There’s a good chance whatever it is you’re doing works. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t be in business or be encouraged to pursue whatever you’re up to. That’s great. Keep it up. There's also a 100% chance that whatever you’re doing can be improved.

Build that improvement into your process. First, ask your clients/peers how you did. I know, that seems scary, but it’s not. People want to be heard and you need the feedback. Ask them to rank your performance on a six point scale and track the results anonymously. Or, if the need for anonymity isn’t as important (for example, if you’re asking your colleague or educator for feedback), take them to out to lunch or coffee, and as a part of the conversation simply ask how you can improve your performance. What they say may be key to your success and growth. 

Don't shy away from asking the people on the other side of the equation how you’re doing. You’re not going to get better in a bubble, so ask for feedback and build it into the process. Keep track of it, take it seriously, and try folding their advice into your process. We all tend to overvalue our own feedback, so be sure to test changes to your process that feel right.

TL;DR

  • Step 1: You have a process whether you know it or not. Start by recording it as if you need to teach it to 10,000 colleagues. Record your process as if you’re looking to help your company franchise, even if you’ll never open another office.
  • Step 2: Define success and start measuring it. 
  • Step 3: Improve your process by asking for feedback.
  • Step 4 (optional): Be Tom Hardy.
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Hope this helps, back to the salt mines ;)
- Ben

Keep up with Ben & A Hundred Monkeys on Twitter and www.ahundredmonkeys.com.