The Process Power Struggle: Confessions of a Process Addict

I have a confession. I’m a process addict. I’m all about going with the flow and being adaptable, but when I find a process that works (you know, the “right way” to do something), it’s tough for me to stray away from that (you can ask my husband how tough it was for me to abandon my “right way” to clean the kitchen when we got married last month. …I promise I’m working on it).

Here at Syrup, we have strong processes and templates for everything. We find what works, we test it, and we continue to optimize as we get better. I believe they’re absolutely vital for a successful business, and they’re vital for every single person’s role within the company, too. However, the one thing we have to be cautious about is how much power we give to these processes.

How much power are you giving to your processes?

Now, I’m not saying totally abandon your processes. Your organization would likely fall apart without them. But use them as a guide. Know which elements of your process or template work and how to apply them to the specific project you’re working on with the specific audience in mind.

I promise it’s possible. Recently, a coworker challenged me to create a new asset for a client without even looking at our template. “What?! How do I write content without a template?! That’s not our process.” But removing myself from the template forced me to think even more creatively and strategically than I typically do. So how did this end up for a process addict? Honestly, it was one of the most refreshing projects I’ve worked on in a long time. I felt a sense of freedom and finally realized what my work was missing.

While I’m writing this blog post in part to confess this process addiction to the world (and in hopes of making a public declaration of freedom), my hope is also that this will help us all see how to use processes to help us, instead of controlling us.

Here are some things we can all do to work on this:

  • Focus on the audience, not the process. If you’re creating something from a template you’ve created, sit in the seat of the customer and take note of what they would want to see instead of what you think they need to see. Maybe your audience simply won’t respond well to the template you’ve created or the process you’ve sworn by this entire time. Data shows us that testimonials work, but maybe your audience responds better to images of your product in use than testimonials. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and shape your work around that.
  • Don’t just fill in the blanks. Are you creating something simply because you’ve been told it works, or are you creating something because you are confident that it’s the best way to reach your audience? Have you tested this? Challenged it? Marketing should never be a fill-in-the-blank exercise.
  • Test! Yes, these processes have been tested through the fire and proven to work. But just because something worked in the past does not mean it will stand the test of time. Never make a process change based on just a small amount of data — make sure you have enough proof that something works before you begin relying on it, then NEVER stop challenging it.
  • Don’t be afraid to change. Change your personal processes, your templates, your work processes, and even the way you get in the mindset to begin a project. You never know what might be slowing you down. Try different things, and never be afraid of what you might find.
  • Take a break. No, really. When you get stuck in the routine or process of something, it’s tough to think creatively. I’m a huge fan of turning off your phone and computer for half an hour to sit away from your desk with just pen and paper (I like to call these Klairity breaks… get it?). These exercises can help you think outside the box and silence the noise we’ve gotten so used to hearing every day. You may even need to get outside of the office. Sometimes the office makes you think of processes, and getting out to work at a coffee shop (or my personal favorite, by the river) can give you a new perspective and help you think of the bigger picture.
  • Check out the competition. You’ll never grow if you live inside your processes. We live in a world full of creative people and awesome ideas, so why not use them to our own advantage? Sometimes it helps to get out of the process and get into the competition. What’s out there? What do others think works? You’ll either find anti-inspiration (those sites that you share with your co-workers to get a good laugh and take note of what not to do), or you’ll find a spark that will ignite an incredible, unique idea.

It’s easy to allow processes to define us, to control us, to distract us… and when they do, work can turn into a fill-in-the-blank exercise rather than a strategic, creative project. But if you’re like me and need some respite from the process-driven world of marketing, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of change, and don’t be afraid to take back control over your processes.

If you’re struggling with this too, or if you have any extra tips, I’d love to talk. There’s strength in numbers, so let’s help each other out. Tweet me here. 

Klaire Maxwell