Process Problems Aren’t Just About Process

Most process problems in organizations today are about people, not machines, assembly lines, or just-in-time inventory strategy. To succeed, companies need to reach beyond traditional process improvement methods.
 
In most organizations today, where processes break down is with people:

  • Teams are stuck in silos and can’t or won’t collaborate
  • Functional leaders aren’t aligned and are focused on different priorities
  • Structures and culture slow people down
  • Metrics and rewards are focused on the wrong things, so they derail objectives
  • Employees don’t know how what they do fits into the bigger picture
 
To solve those complicated challenges, it’s vital to design processes in the context of all the dimensions of the organization (mapped out in our Eight Dimensions on the right).
Eight Dimensions 
The minute you change one dimension, say process, it causes ripple effects across the entire organization. Fixing the steps in a process without adjusting the culture, structure, skills, and behaviors means the new process is doomed to disappoint.
 
Looking at the entire picture makes it easier to see how to make genuine change that lasts.
  • Process improvement often overlaps with a need to improve culture, values, behaviors, and structure.
  • Vision, mission, and strategy are often an unclear clutter of messages filled with buzzwords that confuse rather than guide people.
  • Talent, knowledge, and skills typically lag behind the innovation driving successful companies today.
  • Tools are frequently out of date or make people’s jobs more difficult. 
Designing a better process helps employees know what they are responsible for and how to do it. They know how their work contributes and how they should hand off projects to the next team. They understand how to collaborate across functions.
 
But process improvement is rarely just about moving boxes and arrows. Today, it’s more commonly about getting people to change the way they’ve done something hundreds or thousands of times. That requires looking at all the dimensions of an organization.

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