Imagine this. It’s the Friday before a long weekend, you’re wrapping up your last few tasks for the day and already thinking about sleeping in on Saturday. Suddenly, you realize the last item on your to-do list is new to you, and the person whose help you need is already done for the day. You could spend a few hours struggling through it on your own, ask someone else for help who may or may not have the answers, or you can leave it unfinished until Monday. The ramifications of these Friday afternoon actions may last far into the next week and ruin the beautiful feeling of a short week, or worse – ruin a client’s marketing strategy. Or, an organization could take a little time in advance, setting up training processes and systems to complete tasks, making life easier and Friday afternoons less stressful for everyone.

Processes and systems can lead to a more creative and strategic organization by creating efficiencies that allow team members to avoid mistakes and focus on strategic thinking for clients. Creating these frameworks requires an initial time investment. However, the early undertaking will pay off through avoided mistakes, saved time in the long run and a more strategic team. Taking the time is worth it because it allows us to better serve our clients.

First, let’s introduce a few keys terms. A process is a series of steps performed in a particular order to achieve a desired goal. A system is a set of principles and procedures that organize the way something is done. These definitions illustrate why processes and systems are vital to a strategic organization. When members of a team can follow detailed, specific instructions and steps for repeated tasks, they eliminate human error and have more brain power and time available for strategic thinking on their client’s behalf.

Deciding to implement systems and processes requires a pause, realignment among the team, and often some level of training. This is a large effort from a small group of people to develop the process or system being used, and an additional investment of time from the rest of the team being asked to implement it. Once an organization identifies an area that could benefit from the introduction of a system or process and agrees that it is worth the investment required, they need to follow a process to create it.

This should include the following steps. First, a single individual or small group should create an outline of the new process or system being proposed. This process may include kick-off meetings, collaborative working sessions and/or resynchronization on direction and next steps. When this individual or group feels confident in what they’ve created the process or system should be introduced to the primary team it will affect for additional feedback and changes. This group is essential as they should be the primary potential users of the system or process and have experienced the most frustration regarding the problem being solved. The process or system should then be tested among a medium sized team and iterated until it is successful. The final step is to share with the entire team for the system, or process to be fully implemented.

An additional note, every industry and organization is constantly changing, and as such, these processes must be flexible and change as well. They should be continuously monitored for points of friction that can be improved upon or made more efficient to match the status of the organization.

This investment in time will quickly show its value. When members of an organization are able to follow a simple and trusted procedure, they will realize several benefits. There are fewer mistakes due to forgotten or incorrectly executed steps. Less time is wasted on revisions and error corrections. And most importantly, more efficient operations for all gives team members the freedom to think more creatively and strategically. They can invest brainpower and creativity rather than simply time and energy. This should be something we all strive for in business and life.

“Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is home because she figured out a faster way.” Jason Fried