How to Find and Improve Hidden Team Processes

Everyday team processes usually form when managers lay out the steps and get input from their team. If the team agrees the process is reasonable and effective, it gets encoded into the project management tool they’re using. But what about the processes that develop organically between teams? Such workflows aren’t always efficient.

Informal team processes usually stick because of the “we’ve always done it this way” approach. However the problem with that approach is that informal traditions can hide a lot of wasted labor and procedures that are no longer necessary.

Spotting hidden team processes will make it easier to optimize areas of inefficiency. Let’s take a closer look.


What Are Hidden Team Processes?

Workflows spanning multiple teams are everywhere. For example, in a project to design a sales landing page, several teams might be involved:

  • The marketing team, who determines the content of the page
  • The creative team, who designs the look of the page and writes copy for it
  • The development team, who actually builds the page and makes it functional

How can you tell if there is an informal process between these teams? Ask yourself the following questions. Who designs the workflow that integrates the work from each of these teams into the project? How are these workflows implemented, tracked, and measured?

If you can identify a workflow but can’t answer these questions about it, you’ve found a hidden team process. Hidden team processes can be some of the most essential functions of your business, but, too often, they’re process orphans. Usually, no one designs them – they just happen. They developed out of ad hoc solutions, common sense, baked-in habits, or the “well, we’ve always done it this way.” approach.


Why do Hidden Team Processes Stay Hidden?

Why don’t hidden workflows get formalized and improved? Usually because they’re “good enough.” If they’re not causing problems and creating a sticking point, nobody stops to really examine them. Since they have no formal overseers or creators, they’re not subject to periodic review or deliberate improvements. They just keep going, efficient or not.

Companies tend to spend time optimizing team and department level operations, however they often forget to improve processes between teams. In our experience, optimizing inter-team hidden processes result in some of the biggest productivity gains.


How Do You Find Your Hidden Team Processes?

In order to optimize hidden inter-team workflows, you first need to find them.

To do so, go back and look at the last 3-5 delivered projects that required more than one team to create – like a website launch, a tech event, or some product or major feature launch.

Interview the team members who worked together, focusing on the people who coordinated the teams. Here are the questions you want to ask:

  • What processes did you follow?
  • Were they efficient?
  • Did they result in a good, finished project?
  • What could be improved, if you tried to intentionally create a cross-team workflow?

The answers will help you pinpoint hidden processes, and start building a formalized workflow between teams.


How to Improve Them

Once you’ve pinpointed hidden team processes, it’s time to start improving them. Here are our tips for making workflows more efficient.

  • Document everything. The first step to improving a hidden process is documenting it’s steps.
  • Assess and analyze. Once you have the process written out, assess where it can be improved.
  • Prioritize. Pick areas where the smallest improvements will have the biggest impacts, and start with those.
  • Adjust and improve. Workflow improvement is an ongoing thing, which is why you should integrate process improvement as part of the workflow itself.



It Pays to Shine a Light on Hidden Workflows

Improving workflow between teams is an investment that can pay huge returns.

After all, this isn’t about reinventing the wheel. You don’t need to throw them out and rebuild them from scratch if they’ve consistently delivered results, but finding and improving on these workflows can only help you run your business better.