Restoring “process” to its rightful place. Principle #1: Strategy comes first!

In the last two posts I took a very critical look at the concept of “process.” Especially with popular management-thinking placing priority on disruptive strategies that utilize innovation and entrepreneurship to create new value, it’s fair to say there’s a “leery eye” placed on anything that’s too structured or restrictive – i.e. process. At the same time there’s universal agreement that there must be a minimum of “discipline” to organize activity and produce results (see the stories in the previous post).towing

So how do we resolve this “love-hate relationship” with process? First, let’s go back to the problem. I submit that the “process craze” went wrong when the means became the end. Since huge successes were initially achieved (especially in administrative areas that really needed it), “serving the process” and creating “more and more process” became the silver bullet for everything. Remember “when you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail” – in this case, process became the hammer.

What’s the remedy? From my perspective, the answer lies in repositioning this valuable tool – process – within the broader toolbox of management fundamentals.

I submit there are two fundamentals that put “process” back into context and help restore its value. Let’s consider the first one:

Vision & strategy come first. Or said differently, process serves vision & strategy. If process is the propeller driving the ship, vision and strategy are the captain’s wheel and the rudder. How does this come to life?

  • Get clarity on where you’re headed (vision and strategy), only then choose the map, the equipment and the crew you’ll need to get there (process). Nothing creates more “process bloat” then building processes “that can do anything” just because we’re unsure of where we’re going, and therefore need to be prepared for everything (trust me, I’ve been there).
  • Organizations that are “lean and mean” (i.e. highly effective at what they do) typically have a very clear idea of who they are, what they want to become, and, as importantly, who they’re NOT. Based on this understanding they equip themselves to perform the mission effectively and shed the rest. If you have to choose where to spend your time, spend it on clarifying vision and strategy (keeping in mind that you may have to do it iteratively). It will pay rich dividends of clarity for building everything else down the road – including process.

Your thoughts? Your reactions on the first fundamental principle?

The second will follow in the next post…Stay tuned.


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  1. Great analogy on the trip! The GPS (or map and compass…) is useless if you don’t know where you’re going. In an organization that is only driven by vague guiding principles (profitable quarters, make the product better than it used to be, etc.) process is an easy way to provide action without direction. In fact, process without a ‘master’ provides the illusion of continuous activity with little result. Good post!

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    2. Lizy, lamento lo de Kiara… como dije por ahí, nadie puede ponerle restricciones a tus sentimientos. Las mascotas son seres muy nobles y que nos entregan tanto o más cariño que muchos humanos cercanos a nosotros… por lo tanto, llorar a nuestros perros fallecidos y extrañarlos es algo muy lógico y natural… Abrazos!