The Irresistible Seduction Of Process

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.

If your firm’s assets are growing and you are scrambling to add staff to service your ever-growing client base, congratulations. That’s a good “problem.” As your firm grows, to provide an exceptional yet uniform client experience, maximize efficiency and minimize errors, you should build and implement a tightly-run process. Who wouldn’t want to perform at a high level, get more work done and make fewer mistakes?

Get The Timeless Reading eBook in PDF

Get the entire 10-part series on Timeless Reading in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues.

Robots Won't Rule The World, It Will Be Cobots, Says Hedge Fund

But process is only a means, and nothing more, to delivering an outstanding client experience. It’s not strategy. And it’s not a product. Disregard this simple truth and you will lose self-starters and future leaders who want to contribute by doing far more than what they are told.

This is how obsessive adherence to process typically unfolds into irrelevance.

Your propensity to always “be better” causes your firm to grow. With growth comes complexity. You add more people from different walks of life, with varied personalities and temperaments. In your quest to be better, you strive to improve client experience. But with more people involved, chaos ensues. It is no longer optimal to run your firm informally.

What do you do to “fix” the chaos? You implement process. If there was already some semblance of process, you improve it and tighten it up.

Now that you have well-executed process in place, the chaos has been pacified, and your firm is running like a well-oiled machine, you pat yourself on the back and tell yourself, “I’ve built a ‘real’ business.”

So far so good.

But on your way to building a “real” business by implementing process, what have you done to your employees’ motivation and engagement? Do they think more or less independently? Did you expand, or curtail, their freedom? Did your firm become more, or less, bureaucratic?

Now go back to the job descriptions of your employees. Chances are, they include words and phrases like, “self-starter,” “initiative,” “can-do attitude,” “flexible,” “creative,” “problem-solver,” “curiosity,” “leadership” and some variations thereof.

Paradoxically, the problem with perfectly executed processes and procedures is that they stand in direct opposition to the very attributes that you desire from your employees. Further, it diminishes their freedom as your firm becomes more bureaucratic. Worse, the seduction of process becomes irresistible to you as you experience near-term results that are visibly positive: greater output with less movements and less thinking, with minimal errors.

But your intellectually curious, self-starting go-getter types are stifled. Some of them joined a small business to escape secure but bureaucratic employers. Now they feel as though your firm suffers with many of the negatives of a big business with none of the benefits. One by one, they move on to more challenging work elsewhere where their contributions are more impactful and better appreciated.

Those who feel secure in routine and structure stay put as you label them, “loyal employees.” They don’t like changes or surprises; they wait to be told what to do; and they find comfort in predictability.

So long as the financial service industry remains unchanged, this model works superbly well because your process is optimized for your business today.

Until it doesn’t.

By Hoon Kang, read the full article here.