In my experience running my third remote company, I’ve found that the people who do the work know how to do the work better if given the necessary support to make improvements themselves.
Clear and timely communication is vital to the success of every person at Process Street. As a concrete example, the process for getting necessary signatures on paperwork. For many companies new to the remote game, this has been a huge obstacle, with one person often becoming overwhelmed by being responsible for too many approvals.
If you have a project that needs approval from a manager before it can proceed, and that manager is dealing with a backlog of similar requests, the whole system breaks down. Our approach has been to step away from signature approvals where possible and rely instead on our checklist approval system.
Our management team can sign off from any device, which keeps all of our projects moving and on track.
In the early days of Process Street, we were not as process-centric as we could have been. Certain processes had poor adherence, process development was being handled solely by managers, new processes weren’t properly documented, and teams weren’t getting the most up-to-date information.
Since we were a small company at the time, I decided the most effective way to make the right decisions was to ask the people those decisions would affect most. I instituted the practice of “working out loud” - completely opening channels of communication between everyone at the company to enable absolute transparency.
Most of our internal communication occurs via Slack channels rather than email or direct messages. With teams spread around the world and across timezones, asynchronous communication is essential.
It is very probable that the person you want to ask for help is in a meeting, out of office, or even asleep. By asking questions and addressing problems publicly, it creates the opportunity for others to offer solutions and facilitates teamwork. Not only does this allow everyone to stay updated on what their colleagues are working on, but it also offers the opportunity for new ideas to be exchanged across teams and departments.
A prime example of this is our Obstacle Removal Bot (ORB). Every day, it posts a message into our Slack channel that everyone can respond to by answering three questions: What are you working on today? What’s the plan for tomorrow? What obstacles are you facing?
It’s not mandatory to respond, but most team members do, and this system ensures that no one quietly struggles alone. Even if the rest of the team doesn’t have an immediate solution, they can - and do - offer support, suggestions, and resources that may be useful.
As a company, we all made a commitment to prioritising our processes, encouraging employee involvement in development, and simplifying the procedure for making those changes.
Instead of months spent with managers debating the pros and cons of processes they didn’t even use, individual employees now have the ability to adjust and adapt the processes they used every day to meet the team’s evolving needs.
Placing this focus on process improvement and documentation generates a lot of positive results, but we notice a significant improvement in three main areas:
Act like an owner
Employees know their own value, and they need to know their managers appreciate that value. Putting people in charge of their own processes gives them a stake in the outcome. By including everyone in the development process, individual employees are more confident and willing to take initiative.
Default to action
I’m always telling my team to work smarter, not harder. The freedom to develop concepts and ideas independently, as well as part of a team, lets them do that. Even the most junior team member knows their contributions are important, which facilitates an environment conducive to sharing ideas, and continuously helping each other improve on those ideas.
Focus on the process
Enabling people to make changes to the processes they rely on ensures that processes don’t stagnate. Our teams are spread out over the entire world. When you encourage that level of diversity in your workforce and provide the opportunity for creative thinking, you boost your ability as an organisation to evolve and stay current.
Processes are meant to save time and make tasks easier; if they aren’t doing that, they aren’t worth keeping. Broken or obsolete processes only encourage cutting corners, taking shortcuts, and normalising process deviance.
When processes work at an optimal level, it encourages people to follow them more consistently. People are more than happy to follow the steps, provided those steps make sense. Maintaining a process-centric culture ensures that they do.
Vinay Patankar is the co-founder and CEO of Process Street.