5 lessons learned from managing a scale-up remotely — Part 3 — “process is key”

When I look back at March 2020, the need for remote management of the company suddenly become a must. Over time I have realized it was one of the best things that happened to me and I have decided to use a remote way of managing the company as my strategy. In my first blog, I focused on explaining why I have decided on this way of work. In the second part, I’ve shared my first lessons learned, which is how the absence of personal contact magnifies your organizational strengths and weaknesses.

This time I would like to share with you my 2nd lesson learned, which is the importance of process.

people over process, or process over people?

Let me start with the demystification of the word “process” first. In most cases, the term “process” is understood as something old-style, causing extra overhead, necessary bureaucracy, or just a waste of time. And frankly speaking, in a lot of cases that is true. But the reason for that is not the process as such, it is its miss-usage and misinterpretation, which causes the wrong perception by its users.

The agile manifesto provides an interesting view on a process within one of its core values saying — “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. Additionally to this value it’s stating also “That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.” This statement can be very often polarizing but it includes a very important message :

Processes should be designed to serve people, not the other way around.

This message uncovers also the reason, why the perception of corporate processes is mostly bad. People are often pushed to follow processes are rules, which do not help them, but make their life more complicated and make their work less comfortable.

If you experienced this before, it’s understandable that your perception of processes is, that they suck. But it is the bad design of them which sucks, not the process as such. So what is the purpose of the process then?

common sense != common practice

They say, that nowadays the focus on individuals is overrated and we should rather focus on the team and teamwork. In general, I agree with that statement. But let’s take a situation, where you really need to deliver something of excellent quality, requiring certain expertise. You have two options :

  • Option A — your “superhero” — single senior engineer having all the required skills and experience
  • Option B — a team of junior engineers, not having the required skills and experience

Which one would you pick? I guess, if you are in hurry and just need to get stuff done, you pick the A. But you will need to scale at one time and you will need to bring that expertise to more people than your superhero. How do you make that happen?

And here comes the purpose of the process — is the persistence and scaling of expertise and best-practice within a team or organization that makes the process such an important part of the organization.

The ultimate purpose of the process is to persist and scale the knowledge and best-practice within the organization.

And by the way — yes, if the process does not include best practices, then it does not make sense and it is a waste of time…

manage the system, not people

So how this all process things are related to remote company management?

Do you remember, when your new colleague joined the team and kept coming to you, knocking on your shoulder and saying “hey frank, can you come for a minute and help me out with something”? This is quite annoying, right? Now imagine, this will happen in remote work, so all the time this happens you got a call or video chat. Fun? I guess not.

If you want to improve your organization’s maturity, the process is the way how the get there. But in times of social distancing, it became a key aspect of your daily operations. People have to know, how stuff needs to be done and access to best practice has to be visible and accessible to everybody. Especially, when operations like onboarding and project setups happen in remote-only modus, your process has to support these operations, so people can easily follow best practices.

So how do you get there? At ableneo, we decided to apply a “process-driven” approach for our operations. We focus on areas, where we do not have the best practice persisted, or on areas, where we see improvement potential for efficiency. More details about our approach can be found in a blog post from our Head of Operations, Bryan.

That’s it for my 3rd lesson learned — the process is key if you want to work efficiently remotely and instead of discussing and arguing how stuff needs to be done, focus your effort on getting things done.

In my next blog post, I will focus on team spirit, which is strongly influenced by remote work in the long term. And if you enjoyed this one, you may be interested in Part 2 “when good become great and bad become critical”.

5 lessons learned from managing a scale-up remotely — Part 3 — “process is key” was originally published in ableneo Process on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.