Process Design Mindset

Whether you realize it or not, everything you do in life can be broken down to a process.

As a baby learning to walk, eat, and brush your teeth?
All a series of processes.

Your morning routine, commute to work, and tasks you do at work?
All processes as well.

Understanding this important fact will allow you to make small changes to improve your life and career with minimal effort.

There is a reason why the plastic bags at a cashier terminal is located right after the bar code scanner – but once upon a time it wasn’t always like that, someone made that impactful change and everyone else followed suit.

In the same manner, if your daily routine at work is to login and manually open 5 websites in 5 different tabs to get your day started, adding those 5 regular websites to automatically “open on startup” easily improves your daily startup process with almost no effort at all.

process improvement benefit

A process-oriented approach allows you to:

1) Cultivate a Process Improvement Mindset to Avoid Mediocrity

2) Be the Master of Your Destiny Through Prioritization and Planning

3) Quality Over Quantity: Maximize Your Long-Term Success with Incremental Steps

4) Develop a Step-by-Step Success Roadmap to Attain Measurable Improvement

5) Make Your Own Luck and Accelerate Your Career with Process Improvement

1) Cultivate a Process Improvement Mindset to Avoid Mediocrity

Time loop stories like Groundhog Day or The Russian Doll reveal something about human nature: it’s easy to get stuck in a rut.

In time loop stories, the main character lives the same day again and again…and again. The cycle continues until they realize they are stuck. By making a change, characters can get out of the time loop and return to real life.

Although “time loops” are fictional, getting stuck in a cycle of everyday mediocrity is not.

The simple truth is this: if your process is the same every day, your results will always be the same. Without change, you will never grow, learn, or advance in your career. To fight the mediocrity trap, people need to cultivate a process improvement mindset.

Here’s how you can fight the mediocrity trap to fast-track your career and boost your daily performance tenfold:

  1. Grill yourself and ask hard-hitting questions. Before you can accelerate your career or life, you have to take stock of where you currently are. Ask yourself tough questions like:
    • Am I doing okay? Am I doing as well as I should?
    • What keeps me motivated to do my job daily? 
    • Am I on track to accelerate my career? 
    • Am I performing as well as I should?

Self-reflection will help you identify areas of strength and weakness to move beyond mediocrity. By taking account of where you are, you can face your current situation head-on and start planning for future improvement.

  1. Don’t be a know-it-all. Pretending that we know everything and have nothing to learn is one of the #1 ways to get stuck in mediocrity. On the other hand, opening ourselves up to new ideas, worldviews, technologies, processes, and people can challenge us and help us grow. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel: learning from others accelerates our growth immensely. Be a sponge for new ideas, and you’ll be making your way to the top in no time.
  2. See that bar? Set it higher. Having big goals and big dreams motivates you to perform at your best every single day. People hit mediocrity if they a) have no goals or b) set their goals very, very low. If you’re happy with “just okay,” you are locking yourself into mediocrity.
    To avoid this, set your goals high and dream big. Don’t worry about other people—the #1 person you are trying to impress is yourself. Set your bar high so that you can be a long-term achiever and satisfied with your work at the end of each day.
  3. It’s risky business time. Many people don’t take risks because they don’t want to fail. Here’s the thing: to avoid mediocrity, you have to live actively, get curious, and take calculated risks. Mentally prime yourself for risk-taking in your day-to-day life to set yourself up for long-term success.

Risks push you out of your comfort zone. In the words of Henry Ford, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Take risks to push yourself out of mediocrity and get new, innovative results at work.

2) Be the Master of Your Destiny Through Prioritization and Planning

Have you ever met someone who never takes responsibility for their actions? The person who always has a reason for falling short?

Chances are, you have. We like to call these people “excuse-makers.”

The excuse maker always blames something outside of their control for their failure. If they forget to bring a customer water, it’s because the manager gave them too many tables. If they arrive late to work, it’s because the traffic was “crazy bad.”

While extenuating circumstances happen to everyone, the excuse maker always blames an outside force when they fail to achieve.

Here’s how you can avoid the pitfall of excuse-making and take control of your future:

  1. You guessed it: don’t make excuses. This simple, golden rule is a hard one for many to learn. Sometimes, we fail because we aren’t (currently) good enough. Or we didn’t plan enough. While it’s hard to admit defeat, making excuses won’t help us improve.
    Excuses trick us into thinking we are “okay”—so we settle into this mindset. In reality, we might not be okay. To prime yourself for future achievement, stop making excuses. In no time, you’ll master process improvement and leave excuse-makers in the dust.
  2. Plan, prioritize, produce. The opposite of the excuse maker is the master planner. Master planners know themselves, their environment, their strengths, their weaknesses…and plan accordingly. When you plan, you can avoid distractions, keep track of all your activities, and focus on achieving the most critical tasks.
    Distraction happens to everyone. However, when you plan and take control of your day, you can distinguish legitimate distractions from unnecessary ones. Through planning and prioritization, you will be able to execute and overcome obstacles without excuses.

 3) Quality Over Quantity: Maximize Your Long-Term Success with Incremental Steps

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gough

In Japan, workers use the term kaizen, meaning “good change.” Kaizen refers to the process of incremental change (aka process improvement). Instead of shooting for the moon on day #1, kaizen dictates that you:

Understand your current achievement levels

Make small daily adjustments toward improvement

Track results

Maintain process changes that provide positive outcomes

Add new opportunities once old processes are set in stone

Like kaizen, process improvement is a systematic, proactive task of taking measurable, small steps to achieve goals. Process improvement can include anything from perfecting your daily routine to optimizing regular team meetings.

When we focus on process improvement, we repeat tasks over and over again without getting stuck in mediocrity. Make your service faster, higher quality, and lower cost through a process improvement mindset.

Maximize your long-term success with kaizen by taking these steps:

  1. Get 1% better every day. Instead of getting overwhelmed trying to achieve everything in one day, focus on what you can accomplish every day. Set a goal of getting 1% better each day, and soon you will be 100% better. Brett and Kate McKay from The Art of Manliness say this:“Instead of trying to make radical changes in a short amount of time, just make small improvements every day that will gradually lead to the change you want. Each day, just focus on getting 1% better in whatever it is you’re trying to improve. That’s it. Just 1%.”

    Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t get overwhelmed attempting to solve the world’s problems today. Instead, focus on incremental change in areas you can control. By focusing on improving 1% each day, you can sustain your motivation long-term and get on a straight path to achieve your dreams.

  2. Free yourself from the “New Year’s resolution” trap. People often fail at their New Year’s resolutions because they tr to make massive, unsustainable changes at once. On the other hand, people who set small, achievable goals can sustain their growth and reach goals without burning out. Curating a process improvement mindset frees you from the New Year’s resolution trap and sets you up for real, long-term success.
  3. Be consistent and cultivate good habits. According to Aristotle, “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” The cornerstone of kaizen and process improvement is consistency. Small steps, good habits, and incremental change will get you much further in life than huge, unsustainable leaps. If you can follow through with your small changes every day, you will be miles ahead of most people.

4) Develop a Step-by-Step Success Road-map to Attain Measurable Improvement

When you plan a large party, you have to start months in advance.

You have to invite people, make food arrangements, coordinate parking space, play music, plan activities, and so much more. Party planning usually begins as a fun idea (or goal); however, as you get closer to the event, you have to make commitments and try out your plan in the real-world.

After the party occurs, you might reflect on the activities that worked…and those that fell flat. In the future, you can avoid prior pitfalls by learning from the past.

But what does party planning have to do with work and process improvement?

All activities in life (from throwing a party to working a job), require planning, implementation, and reflection to be successful. Here are the specific, actionable steps you need to make your goals a reality with a process improvement mindset:

  1. Draw a map. To go anywhere in life, you need a map to guide your course. To begin, list all processes that you know need improvement. Then, break down each process into sub-categories so you can see how all processes relate to one another. This map will give you an overview of all your process weaknesses.
  2. Analyze your map. Now that your process weaknesses are mapped out, look closely at it. Try to locate the primary issues to address. Problems like delays, over-allocation of resources, overspending, idleness, and more can create enormous problems for you.

Pick one or two major issues that you want to resolve. Make sure you understand the root cause of each problem and how they relate to one another.

  1. Redesign your process (Fixer Upper style). Call in Chip and Joanna—it’s time to renovate. Create a plan to solve your main issues through new processes. Consider the risks involved with the redesign and potential impacts (good and bad) each new process will bring. Additionally, it might be helpful to include other team members to work collaboratively on the redesign at this stage.
  2. Implement your plan. Now you need to try out your process in real-time. Make sure you have specific, measurable deliverables for everyone on the team to work toward as you implement your plan. Communicate timelines and tasks with everyone on your team.
  3. Track the data. Now that your new process is live, it’s time to track results to gauge whether or not your plan is working. Without results, you won’t be able to compare your new process with your old process. If you achieve positive metrics, this means your process improvement change was a success. Now, you can move on to improving more processes through incremental change.

5) Make Your Own Luck and Accelerate Your Career with Process Improvement

Which would you rather have: raw talent without motivation or a growth mindset without raw talent?

Hopefully, you chose the latter. While it’s nice to have raw talent, talent without motivation will get you nowhere. On the other hand, implementing process improvements will get you further than you ever imagined (even if you don’t have raw talent).

Here’s how you can make your own luck in the world and land that dream job through process improvement:

  1. Use the PAR method. Show your future boss that you are results-oriented with PAR:
    • Problem: Identify an inefficiency
    • Action: Address the inefficiency
    • Results: Explain the outcome of your actions in numerical terms

In your day-to-day work, identify problems and take action to solve these problems so you have valuable metrics to share with future employers. Instead of telling your next boss: “I wrote emails and blogs,” you will be able to say: “I streamlined our content creation process using ASANA, which reduced content planning by 30% and increased traffic by 15%.”

  1. Numbers make the world go round. Numbers are the love language of employers across the globe. If you can give a future boss reportable numbers, you will leave a positive impression and significantly increase the likelihood that they will hire you.
  2. Treat job hunting like a job. If you are in a season of job hunting, you need to use a process improvement mindset even during this time. The best job seekers treat “job hunting” as their full-time job: they research, plan, organize, implement, measure, and adjust plans as necessary. By systematically looking for a job using a process improvement mindset, you can locate high-quality work faster.

“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” – Coco Chanel

There you have it.

When the competition is fierce, having a tactical game plan to rise above the rest is critical to your success.

The way to stand out from the herd is to understand what they’re doing and then do it better by not being afraid of being different.