Process Makes Perfect
tl;dr: We focus on results, but process is a much better proxy for continued success — especially when it comes to corporate travel
When we celebrate something, it's usually all about the results. Our company had its best sales month ever. Our team won this many games this season.
But the outcome is just one small piece of the larger puzzle: the process. What's going on behind the scenes is often much more meaningful and useful than what everyone else is watching on center stage.
So why do so many people ignore the process in favor of the results? Well to start it's human nature. It's easier to focus on a single outcome (and judge success or failure just on that) than it is to untangle the complicated web of process.
But, difficult or not, evaluating (and re-evaluating) the processes that undergird your company's execution is essential.
In fact, we recently recorded a podcast with Hiten Shah, one of the startup world's most ardent process pushers, about this very topic. He shared some great tips for streamlining growth, updating archaic processes, fighting scope creep, and more.
But, given that Lola.com is so focused on corporate travel — and how big a role it plays in the success of your company — we wanted to take Hiten's broader advice and apply it to the world of corporate travel management.
Nothing Says “Change” Like the Travel Industry
The first thing to keep in mind here is that your process for managing corporate travel, whether you know it or not, is probably slowing your company down.
If you keep managing corporate travel the way you’ve always done it, nobody’s a winner — not your company, not your travel manager, not your traveler. Hiten Shah, says the problem is that we’re missing something fundamental when we think of about business improvement. We think about improving products, and – sometimes, anyway – ourselves, “but the idea of improving process is at the core of getting anywhere, making any improvement and any kind of change.”
But the question remains: How can you improve your corporate travel management process? Isn't it just one of those things, like a root canal or a trip to the DMV, that just has to be painful and frustrating?
Corporate travel through a new set of eyes
It may seem that way at first. But as you peel back the layers, you realize that corporate travel management is just like any other aspect of your business — in that it can be de- and re-constructed. And continuously improved.
In other words: Your company’s travel program is a series of processes. If we’re going to repeat something, he says – a task or process such as (in our case) travel booking, expense reimbursement, etc. — it should be reviewed after each cycle. By devoting just a few minutes to immediate review, you can be sure things cannot be better. (Or, conversely, identify where something could be better.) He admits that reviewing processes after every cycle isn’t always feasible, depending on the frequency and type of process.
The goal, though, is to gather intel while it’s freshest in mind. This is the same concept great employers use in coaching employees – giving feedback right away is far more relevant and useful than waiting until the annual performance review when the action is old, long-forgotten, and any feedback has little to no impact.
Corporate travel managers, take note! This same concept also applies to your company’s travel program. Every aspect of it, from policy development to booking to expense reporting to data gathering for future planning. Here at Lola, we advocate strongly for regular review of these processes and the details within them. We also advocate strongly for including your travelers in the review process. After all, one could argue that they are most directly affected by the rules and flow that make up your travel program.
So Why Not Take Hiten Shah’s Advice?
Put it into play to improve your corporate travel experience all around. Along with periodic in-depth review and discussion, you could institute ongoing “instant review” in the form of a super-short three-question survey for returning travelers:
1. What did not go perfectly?
3. How could we prevent that from happening again?
Zip, zap, instant data that a) confirms everything with your corporate travel process is just right, or b) reveals that something is not quite right. Remember, we’re talking about your internal policies and processes. We aren’t asking if their flight was delayed or if the conference was a waste of time. On the other hand, if their flight was cancelled and your process does not overtly help them out of jams like this, that is a process defect you can address. (Adopting Lola.com as your travel management tool alleviates travel pains such as this.)
A quick follow-up survey can do more than provide immediate feedback you can use right away to make valuable improvements in your travel program. It eliminates latent traveler frustration – that lingering “grrrrr, oh well, whatever” feeling we get when our travel experience was less-than-stellar but we’re pretty sure no one wants to hear about it.
Sure, we might gripe or even rant to a friend or two, but unless there is a process that reports these potential improvement tidbits to travel managers, each problem is a lost opportunity to do better. And it can lead to festering traveler dissatisfaction.
So, is it good, or is it not? You can keep managing corporate travel the same way you’ve always done it, or you can take simple steps to improve the process, continuously.