inefficient process

7 signs your process isn't working

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  • Process improvement

When it comes to product and project management, best practices, proven methodologies, and workflow strategies abound. Like any tried-and-true approach, many tips on building a highly efficient and functional process are sourced and learned from experience over time. After all, mistakes are a highly effective teacher. 

While there's plenty of discussion on how to make sure your processes are working, how to avoid issues in the first place is discussed less. Understanding and recognizing when things have strayed off course, or when you're not working as effectively as possible, can save you valuable time and resources. Let's look at seven tell-tale signs that your process isn't working as well as it could be. 

  1. Projects aren't getting completed in a timely manner

"Done is better than perfect." "Perfection is the enemy of progress." "Perfect is the enemy of good." Much has been said about getting work across the finish line, even if it's done imperfectly. And the job of a successful project manager is to balance quality output and critical deadlines. 

This idea is backed up by the "launch and iterate" philosophy, too. The theory is that by getting work done, and then testing and learning from the end result, you can iterate and improve more quickly. The result is better insights and a culture of continuous improvement. It also takes some of the pressure off your teams to get things perfect the first time, which frees them to think more creatively while mitigating risk. 

According to PMI's 2018 Pulse of the Profession report, about 48% of projects don't meet initial timelines. It may seem obvious, but if projects regularly hit a stalemate or your team cannot meet timelines, it's a sign that your team may  be held up by too much bureaucracy or the burden of perfection. Whatever the reason, any delayed timeline indicates that something needs to be improved  in your process. 

  1. Your process requires a lot of resources with little ROI 

Some projects are worthy of a significant time, budget, and resource investment—that is, if you can prove the ROI on the end result. However, even the most well thought out projects can be a bust if they take too much time to launch, with too few results to show for the energy and resource expenditure. 

Time and people are your most valuable resources, but spending too much of either on any given project, is a sign that some inefficiencies exist in your process. It's important for the project manager to appropriately allocate resources to maximize ROI. 

  1. The process is inconsistent across teams or departments

Process standardization eliminates confusion, mitigates risk, and helps teams use the time and resources at their disposal more efficiently. However, too often, processes are inconsistent across teams and departments. This not only makes it difficult to quickly identify where projects stand but makes valuable, cross-functional collaboration next to impossible. 

It's not always possible to fully align processes across departments and disciplines. Your creative team, for example, will have different milestones to hit than your engineering team or  your legal department. Yet, if your team isn't aligned on objectives, or if you're struggling to track and synchronize approval flows, it's a sign that your process might be holding you back. 

  1. The process has recurring bottlenecks 

Some process complications are tough to solve—and not every challenge during a project is avoidable. Legal or compliance approval, for example, is often a lengthy process. Company strategic shifts can also interrupt feedback loops. 

Successful project managers are less concerned with these one-off bottlenecks. The bigger concern is the roadblocks that continuously and consistently block the path toward successful project completion. Pay close attention to recurring issues in your process, and don't write them off as "just the way it is." It's not possible to avoid every bottleneck, but tracking what repeatedly goes wrong and when, can help you create a smoother path for your next project. 

  1. Busywork and repetitive tasks aren't automated 

Process improvement is all about protecting your most valuable resources: your time and people. If your team members are tied up on menial, repetitive tasks, they won't have the headspace or energy to think creatively about their work. The result is overworked employees and mediocre results. 

If busywork takes up too much of your team's time, it's a sign that it's time to automate some tasks.

  1. Your team members have provided constructive criticism of the process 

Often, employees choose to deal with frustrating processes rather than risk airing their grievances. Elements Global Services found that 49% of workers don't share complaints about their work for fear of the repercussions or being labeled as difficult. 

Given this dynamic, if a complaint or constructive criticism of your processes does surface, there is likely some weight and truth to it. It's important to listen carefully to this feedback for insights into your team's frustrations and less visible bottlenecks in your process. 

Consider giving your team members an anonymous way to provide input. The opportunity to share feedback in confidence will build trust and help you gain the type of radically candid feedback you need to improve your process, increase satisfaction among your team, and even prevent employee turnover.

  1. The process is not clear to those involved

When processes are documented clearly and communicated well, workflows run more efficiently. If you're noticing more questions than usual about who's in charge of what, next steps, and how to know when a project is complete, you likely need to define your process more clearly. 

Awareness is the first step to solving any problem. Look out for these signs that your process isn't working so you can actively identify what needs to be fixed. Once you've removed major roadblocks, you can start to pay more attention to what's going right and continue to optimize the way you work. 

inefficient process

Once you’ve identified which of your processes need to change, check out these tips for pivoting those processes effectively.   

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About Lucidchart

Lucidchart, a cloud-based intelligent diagramming application, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This intuitive, cloud-based solution empowers teams to collaborate in real-time to build flowcharts, mockups, UML diagrams, customer journey maps, and more. Lucidchart propels teams forward to build the future faster. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit

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