How to find the sweet spot between process and productivity

Having worked for nine agencies internationally (but who’s counting) I’ve seen a lot of process and a lot of productivity over the years, and learnt the hard way, you can’t have one without the other. 

It’s a fine balance to find the sweet spot that enables a project to really fly. 

All too often I’ve seen teams, totally stressed out and overwhelmed, struggling to get anything done either because there is too much process or not enough! 

Too much process stifles creativity and can inhibit genuine progress. Protocol is over-emphasised and there is waaaay to much focus on following ‘how it should be done’ rather getting sh*t done.

No or little process results in chaos, not to mention dissatisfied clients. Everything is left too open and there’s no unity within teams while everyone scrambles to find their flow - it’s exhausting. 

Agile methodologies, like us, have a preference for practices and rituals that - When followed they become healthy-habits that effortlessly drive everyone towards the deadline without excessive drama or pain. 

Finding the middle path between process and productivity means you get to deliver good quality work made by happy teams to satisfied clients. 

So how to optimise your operations to really empower your projects and your project teams? 

Tool up and traffic work 

Sprinting towards a deadline and juggling multiple workloads is no way to pursue productivity. 

Get the right tools in place to help you monitor teams capacity and availability (so you know what is possible and when) and a projects timeline and overall status so you can adjust expectations, planning and resource accordingly. 

Channel progress 

Have a clear workflow, so you can smoothly move from concept to completion, and make sure the whole team is invested in and familiar with that workflow! While it’s great to have teams that can self-organise, some things should be standardised to create some security and predictability.

Under promise / Over deliver :) 

Be mindful about making considered commitments that you know are achievable. Aim to over-satisfy clients by promising what is possible and putting the extra effort when there is an opportunity, in order to please. 

Set your priorities 

There are times when needs will clash, but it’s important to recognise that not everything can always be done at once. If increasing the size of your project team isn’t practical and cloning still isn’t possible, then setting priorities is your friend and will help avoid putting too much pressure on people. 

Communicate 

Build in clear communication pathways, especially at critical moments in a project, so information can be exchanged easily and issues raised in real time, rather than when it’s too late. 

Become an expert at time management 

Set boundaries when it comes to time management, so your teams members work towards smaller goals and milestones, instead of feeling overloaded by the workload. This way it’s much easier to monitor progress, tell if you’re ahead or behind and decide if you need to change your approach, refine the scope, increase your effort or comfortably cruise towards the finish line. 

Give your process room to evolve 

Keep your process as responsive and dynamic as your teams by continuously looking to improve and optimise how you work by monitoring what’s working and what’s not. Let your process evolve from the insights that come from wrap up meetings and retros and don’t be afraid to adapt or alter it over time. 

Make it simple, scalable and sustainable 

Keeping your process practical without over complicating it will help to ensure people follow it consistently. Think details rather than big-picture and don’t try to change too much at once. After all small habits repeated over a long period of time become second nature. 

There will always be crunch points during some projects when process goes out the window, and you need to rip up the rule book and wing it. That’s a skill in itself and can be a big thrill, but remember it should be the exception rather than the rule!! 

Your challenge and your aim is to cultivate the right amount of process to propel your team through production perfectly.