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The need to systematize

Whenever possible, we should avoid making the same small decisions over and over again. Decision fatigue results in poorer choices. There’s a reason that Steve Jobs always wore the same outfit. It’s time for us to apply this lesson to other business practices. Standardized processes help you and your team to stay focused. Whether it’s customer service or new product launches, standardized processes allow you to get more done.

In The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande clearly explains how even seasoned pilots benefit from going over a preflight checklist to prevent mistakes. Unfortunately, it often takes making a costly error for us to reflect on how we can prevent something similar from happening in the future. But, if we recognize that taking time to analyze our workflow helps us to perform better after things go poorly, why not proactively apply the same mindset when things are going well?

Ray Dalio takes this a step further by systematizing his whole decision making process into what he calls Principles.

Here are some key benefits teams will see from standardizing their processes:

  1. Clearer expectations and higher employee satisfaction
  2. Improved quality of work
  3. Increased efficiency

1. Clearer expectations and higher employee satisfaction

One of the most valuable parts of defining a standard checklist as a team is that it forces everyone to agree on what the process is. With clearly articulated goals, expectations are clear and people have a common language to discuss their progress. This means that your team can better predict progress and obstacles, all while having fewer meetings to clarify expectations or miscommunication.


Imagine you’re an account manager in charge of helping new customer successfully integrate your company’s product. As an account manager, you need to be sure to educate them on how to use your product. With a clearly documented process, it’s easy to know whether you’re doing a good job and for your manager to have confidence in the work that you’re doing.

Clearing up misconceptions

By taking time to explicitly document a process, the team can be deliberate about breaking tasks down into smaller subtasks. Not only does this make the subtasks more manageable, but it also provides for a greater sense of satisfaction, as the team can see forward progress. One of the biggest workplace frustrations is feeling like you’re doing a lot of work, but not making any progress.

In going through the exercise of systematizing a process, many people are surprised to learn about misconceptions between people who have been working together for a long time. Often managers are unaware of work that their direct reports are doing or peers are unaware of lifehacks that that their teammates have developed. Having this kind of discussion builds trust and improves team morale.


As a member of the quality assurance team, it would be ideal to know what you’re responsible for checking and to know what is considered acceptable quality. If in the past, you thought that you were doing a good job, but later found out that you had let bad products pass through, you’d probably feel frustrated that your manager hadn’t clearly explained what you were responsible for. You tried your best to meet expectations, but ultimately your results fell short. Similarly, as a manager, you’d like to have some assurance that your team is using the latest process(es).

2. Improved quality of work

With a standard process comes a consistent baseline, making it easier for teams to run experiments to assess changes that could lead to better outcomes or cost savings. This means that teammates can learn lessons from each other, rather than having to learn each lesson for themselves. When there’s a standard process and problems keep arising in the same place, then it becomes clearer where issues arise and easier to correct mistakes.


Imagine that you work on an events team. As a team, you want each event to have a signature look and feel that is consistent with your company brand. It’s easy to imagine someone forgetting to print name tags before an event. This would be particularly problematic if the purpose of the event was for people to get to know new people. With a standard process this would be harder to do. This way each event coordinator can focus on the particulars of that specific event as opposed to things that need to happen each time.

3. Improved efficiency

It’s often hard to see the impact of small improvements. For example, saving a few seconds when doing something 5 times doesn’t matter very much. But, if you perform that task 10k times, then those small improvements can start to make a material difference.

Once an agreed upon system is in place, it’s easier to promote collaboration between teammates. By establishing a protocol, it’s much easier to parallelize work. So, instead of having one person responsible for shepherding something through the entire process, teams can start to devise the equivalent of an assembly line, which will lead to higher throughput. Having a clearly articulated process limits distractions and makes it easier to pick up where you left off.

Lastly, predictability makes a big difference in a team’s ability to deliver on-time. Uncertainty or delays early in a process get magnified over time (often referred to as the bullwhip effect). By standardizing the system, this is less likely to happen. Checklists are a great way to ensure that people are following the agreed upon processes, which helps to maintain team efficiency.


Let’s assume that you are in charge of scheduling surgeries. In the United States, medical providers may need to verify insurance pre-authorization. To do that, you typically need to call the insurance company. Instead of waiting on hold separately for each patient, it may be faster to batch process them, so that you can verify multiple patients at once.


As a painter, it’s important to remove any mental friction between you and starting to paint. It’s useful to have a standard process for setting up your workspace, for cleaning up, and for storing your works. This way there’s no need to think about these critical steps each time, instead you can focus on channeling your creativity.


At the end of the day, improved quality means that there is less of a need for re-work which not only saves time and money, but it also improves team morale since fundamentally no one likes to make mistakes. Having a clear system improves the chances of people doing good work.

If you’re looking for a way to keep track of your team’s processes, please check out Hoshon.

Category Opinion