Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Cult of Process

I am more interested in the end result than in the means to that result. As long as it is legal, moral and ethical, does it really matter how you get there? Sound process is not only necessary, it is critical. (My simple definition of process: here are the steps and the order to carry them out.) I am not against process – we cannot function effectively without it. However, mistaking the process for the results is detrimental. The danger in blindly following the process without question will almost certainly eliminate innovation – the discovery of a better way.

Personal story:

They were executing the process (procedure) perfectly. Everything was being done as prescribed and they were proud. I commended them on their efforts and achievement of excellence; after all, they were doing what they were told. Then I asked the big question – why. What is the purpose? What is the benefit to what you are doing? Does it solve any problem; save any cost; generate any revenue? In this situation, the process was simply a "feel good" program. It had no benefit to the organization whatsoever.

We need to encourage everyone to ask questions. I tell everyone to find out the "why" before you do anything. There is a dramatic increase in buy-in when people understand the reasons for doing what they do. It is an unfortunate and revealing testimony to leadership to find people in any organization, doing things for which they have no understanding of the reason why they are doing those things.

I am not threatened by questions, by people challenging the status quo. I think that this is a sign of a healthy organization. Personally, I would be embarrassed to find out that people in my organization where doing things for the only reason that I, or someone else, said so.

If we execute the process flawlessly – but do not achieve the desired results, we didn't really win. It is time to re-examine the process.

Does this sound elemental – simple?

Why is it so common?


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