I’m not sure what it is about the New Year but I’ve heard the phrase “we need a process” just a few too many times already (and it’s only January). Maybe people are looking at opportunities they missed in 2015. Maybe it’s a sincere effort to improve for 2016. Or perhaps it’s another version of the New Year’s resolution to go to the gym and get in shape . . . about half of which have already failed with many more to follow in February.
I get the need for a process, but given the choice between an eloquent process that is exquisitely documented and a motivated individual who can think, I’ll choose the latter every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Processes are fine but they do no good if there aren’t motivated thinkers carrying them out. Few processes can account for every twist and turn and variable that comes along. Circumstances change; so unless those carrying out the processes truly understand the why and how of the process steps that they are following and are able to think through changing circumstances, the processes become obsolete the first time circumstances change beyond the boundaries of the ever so meticulously crafted process. But more than just being inefficient, those processes can now wreak havoc as people blindly follow them like lemmings over the edge and end up with bad results because they had a process to follow. In other words, they did what they were told to do as opposed to what they should have done.
One of my most successful clients has made focusing on individual human performance a focus area for 2016. What does that mean? It means there is going to be a conversation for those who are not motivated and getting it done and aren’t thinking about the implications of their actions.
Another of my clients hired an executive who is former military to ride herd over some areas where there were processes but people just quit following them and didn’t think through the implications of their actions (or lack thereof). I’m sure his mandatory push-ups will get them thinking (and hopefully in better shape as well).
I could also cite a couple of cases where I know of people looking for more or different processes to supplement the prior processes that people failed to follow. You can probably guess, I’m not too optimistic about the outcome.
Am I against processes? No. Well, at least as long as I don’t have to write them. Processes and process improvement are fine as far as they go. And in many cases, a well-defined process is absolutely critical to success. But one has to keep in mind that ultimately it is the people that drive the processes and are the more critical success factor.
Ironically, the more that technology has enabled us to automate processes, the more dependent we are on thinking individuals either to write the code to perform the automation or deal with the complexities that cannot be automated.
So, before you invest the time and energy to write a better process, ask yourself if the people who are going to be carrying it out are up to the challenge and whether you are better served improving your people.
Welcome to 2016!
If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you. Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to [email protected] The archive of these monthly newsletters is posted at the Resources section of homza.com
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Ken Homza Copyright @ 2016 Homza Consulting, Inc.