This post is the 4th in a series on considering the proper position of “process.” Beginning with its current stigma, to everyday situations that reveal its necessity, to the two guiding principles I submit are the keys to its restoration. The following is the second guiding principle:
Continually re-design process for purpose and environment. Just as car-makers continually update technology and release new models every 2-3 years to meet new consumer demands and regulations, process must be continually updated to meet the demands of its customers. What does this mean to you?
- Build processes for today, but with the future in mind. Beware! There’s a trap if you just apply the “vision & strategy principle” in isolation, because if today’s processes are built to match the 5-year vision you’ll be in trouble. Why? Because you’re probably still in “year 1” and the processes needed in “year 5” (when we’ve doubled our customer-base & added 3 product lines, for example) are too complex and high-powered for what we need today. As a previous manager once told me: “there’s no sense in measuring something with a micrometer if you’re going to cut it with a baseball bat.” The art is to build just enough process (not more) to meet the needs of today, but make sure it is aligned and can be built upon to reach the vision of tomorrow.
- Adapt! Taking a page from the industrial design community, make sure processes are frequently updated and redesigned. From my perspective this directly challenges the traditional “quality system mentality” in which a quality department writes procedures that typically stay static for years and become the “prison” in which the business is forced to operate (or find “clever” ways to avoid, and therefore make irrelevant). What about the notion of “process designers”? – people at the cutting edge of industry trends & business-model understanding who can partner with leaders to design (& re-design) cutting edge processes that provide a competitive advantage? Rather than being seen as “prison wardens” that preach “what not to do” they’re “business partners” who continually reinvent and “make life easier” to better serve customers and produce superior results.
So, is process a lost cause? NO! Clearly not! However, we need a radically new mindset to give it a new lease on life and restore it to its proper place in the management toolbox. If this is achieved, we can overcome the stigma of confinement and complexity, recasting it as a tool of competitive advantage helping organizations continually find innovative ways to do things fundamentally better than their competition.