people don’t follow the process …

… so make the process the people’s responsibility.

That might be provocative for managers who believe it is their job to define the process. Let’s look at realities.

Imagine it: the leaders have specified the business outcomes, the managers designed the processes to make that happen, process professionals have validated and verified, systems have been designed for the process flow and everyone is trained. The business should work like clockwork.

But it doesn’t.

Most workers follow most of the process most of the time. Some work that comes their way needs them to be a little creative to work round the system to get that particular case through. Some simply find a lazy but effective way to get the job done and keep their head down. 

A dummy social security number where there just isn’t a valid one on record, a fictional land line number because the person concerned only has a mobile (cell) phone with an unusual number format, or because reprints aren’t allowed (!) a duplicate record is created to reprint a letter that the printer ate.  Bad data quality and ineffective processes are the results.

How do people learn to do that? The same way they always did: by asking their peers for a workaround or an easier way.  Asking management means raising their head above the wall of their cubical and delays. In extreme cases, it might mean a frustrated or stressed manager gives them a hard time.

I find managers are often surprised that the process actually happening in their teams is not the one written down.  They get very frustrated that their team don’t do as they are told. That simply shows they are not properly managing the process: monitoring normal work and evaluating exceptions for lessons learned and potential changes – they claim are too busy defining what needs to be done.

I recently discovered that some parents and teachers are similarly surprised to discover that teanagers also prefer to ask their class mates rather than consult a manual or ask their adults.

It seems it is human nature to ask your peers, those close to you with similar experience.  Perhaps using that working knowledge is preferable to getting managers to define processes. Isn’t that what Six Sigma teams and Quality Circles do?

If the creativity is there to find work rounds, it is surely there to define the most efficient and effective system.  A manager’s real job is to harness the creativity in their team to make them the most effective and efficient team.


About 3triangles
Helping organisations make change happen in 3 key areas: strategic change, deliver tactical impacts, efficient and effective processes. All blog content (c) 2009 - 2012 Carol Long and Three Triangles Performance Ltd

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