The Power of Process: A Key Ingredient in Any Organization
When Bridgewater's President and Founder, Jerry Baack, founded the bank in 2005, he set out, like most entrepreneurs, to solve a problem. In this case, it was to create a better bank, one where answers came quickly, opportunities were plentiful, and the environment was positive and optimistic. We've celebrated many milestones since our founding, but where there were successes, there were also "growing pains." In 2010, five years into our growth, we had new people, pressures, and challenges that many entrepreneurs face. We lacked certainty on how to navigate them and knew we needed more structure in order to grow, or we might plateau.
Everything changed when Jerry came across the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) thirteen years ago. This program transforms the way organizations work by helping companies "simplify, clarify and achieve their vision" using a set of concepts and tools. One of my favorite parts of this program is the Six Key Components™. As EOS puts it, these are the six areas of a company that must be managed and strengthened to create a great business.
One component that has been especially helpful to us at Bridgewater Bank is Process. Building effective processes throughout our journey has been particularly important because of the detailed nature of our work. EOS continues to help us create, evaluate, and tweak processes effectively. Although I believe companies that run on EOS will benefit the most, it's critical for any company, whether or not they run on EOS, to zero in on processes regularly.
What is a Process?
A process simply ensures tasks are done the same way each time, regardless of who is involved. This improves efficiency, consistency, and accountability within an organization. Processes are essential in entrepreneurial organizations because of the constant stream of items that need to be handled daily. These companies are trying to move quickly and stay lean, and having effective processes helps with that.
Creating a Process
Processes don't have to be complex. In fact, my recommendation is to keep them simple! EOS provides a framework for business leaders to create processes. It advises organizations to start by documenting 6-10 core business practices across departments like HR, Marketing, Sales, Operations, Finance, and Customer Support.
There isn't a limit to the number of processes that can be created. In fact, at Bridgewater Bank, we have far beyond the recommended amount due to the specific needs we have as a bank and regulatory oversight. Our processes help our people assist clients with opening accounts, cashing checks, and applying for loans. Even this blog you are reading right now went through a process that led up to its publication.
Holding People Accountable to Processes
Entrepreneurs must hold themselves accountable to their organization's processes. Employees often emulate the work behaviors of their managers, so it's vital for leaders to set an example. Likewise, entrepreneurs must also hold their teams accountable to following processes. This will ensure continuity throughout the company.
Evaluating a Process
As a business grows or evolves, it's necessary to adjust processes to fit changes. EOS simplifies this through the use of quarterly projects. When an EOS-run company identifies a process that needs updating, a team member focuses on this as a quarterly project. This way, the business can continue its daily operations while addressing process improvements in the background. For organizations outside of EOS, it's still important to regularly evaluate and refine processes. Entrepreneurs should establish a regular schedule for this to ensure it receives the attention it deserves.
Prioritizing process has helped Bridgewater thrive, and we believe processes are vital for any business looking to grow and succeed. The key to implementing great processes is to create them, hold people accountable to them, and continuously evaluate them. EOS provides the structure to do this effectively, but I am confident any entrepreneur who invests time into creating a culture where processes are valued will see results.