Bryant: This is Your Brain on Processes

Feb. 25, 2023
Brain chemistry and the way people learn all play a role in process implementation.

Workflow processes are often taken for granted in the workplace. We go about our day-to-day tasks without considering how they came to be or why they exist. However, developing and implementing processes are essential elements of any successful team's performance. Consistent processes and protocols provide the structure and repeatable steps necessary for staff to work productively, allowing team members to stay on track with their goals/tasks. To be effective, processes need to consider the unique needs of your team members and the ever-changing environment in which they do their jobs. 

In this column, we’ll explore how brain chemistry can impact productivity and how it is a valuable tool in designing an effective process that will increase your facility's ability to develop foundational policies & procedures without sacrificing employee well-being. It is critical, however, that any process must be adhered to with extraordinary discipline if it is going to be beneficial. If well-planned and properly executed, processes are your vessel to a consistent, repeatable, and predictable work environment.  

How Brain Chemistry Affects Workplace Processes 

It's easier to think logically when it comes to office processes and creating schedules or plans, but how can we factor in the emotional aspects of the workplace? Now, I promise not to take you on a journey back to get your neuroscience degree, as it's imperative that your teams can really wrap their minds around this. Our brains are composed of several different areas broken down into sections that all communicate with one another for us to produce cognitive thought, emotions, fear, logic, etc. To simplify its processing for your team, it's generally accepted that the left side of our brain is associated with logical thought, while the right half helps connect emotion to action. We must help our teams understand the power of knowing when to use the proper side of their brains in decision-making in order to structure some logical order into these emotions. By studying this left-right combination, we can use the recorded written data alongside our ability to schedule an intentional time to understand why certain workplace processes are needed, why some might not be successful and to help offer insights into what could improve them for everyone involved. 

Developing and Implementing Effective Workplace Processes

Developing systematic workplace processes can be a daunting task. It is, however, essential to ensure that all employees are on the same page in terms of understanding and following company procedures. It is crucial to consider the power of the individuals within our facilities to implement effective processes. This involves having routines that allow staff to use their right brains to dump day-to-day emotions, feedback and hurdles into a list, then set a specific time to review that list using the left brain to develop cognitive solutions to the list topics. These regular meetings should be held to reflect collaboratively with either team leads or departmental supervisors. Therefore, when your team leads review the list of dumped day-to-day information provided by your front-line team members, the room can logically decide if a list item is a valid concern that deserves to be the next candidate to focus on implementing a process around, or perhaps the list item was just some emotional reaction within that team member’s afternoon last week. Either way, the team members responsible for dumping their daily emotions on the list develop confidence that their word matters, they are being heard and they play a vital role in the company's future success. By incorporating these thought processes into your workplace routine, team members can make more informed decisions efficiently rather than responding through immediate emotion. Your team will acquire process development momentum faster than you can write them. 

Case Study: Improving Employee Engagement through Process Development and Implementation 

In every business, big or small, we all face the challenge of discretionary engagement. This is the gap between the level of effort a team member puts in vs. their full potential in the workplace. To help close this challenging gap, we created a simple image to visually demonstrate the right brain vs. left brain strengths & weaknesses. We attached this image to each team member's desk as a constant reminder to dump their daily feedback into a digital list to contribute to our future meetings. Utilizing this visual reminder that their feedback is critical and that we expect something to be on their list before our next meeting demands accountability. Those not contributing stand out to the rest of the team and are generally motivated to provide their two cents eventually when they collaterally see the progress within a neighboring department being made.   

To summarize, processes only work when they are consistent, repeatable, and implemented with high levels of discipline. Helping your team understand that they are humans and, as humans, if we rely simply on our instinctive abilities, we will inevitably let each other down. However, with a little structure, organization, and regular follow-up, the secret to foundational process development and implementation is in the hands of your people. 

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