Things get done in business due to processes, people and the tools they use.
Most businesses accept the need to constantly train, and refresh the skills of people within the business – this is indicated by the huge growth of training organisations and government funding for such training. Equally businesses are often happy to invest in tools and equipment to improve the business, however few seem prepared to put such continual effort into their processes and procedures. This is a mistake;if business changes enough to require people to be trained and skills refreshed then surely it follows that, processes and procedures that teams operate require similar development.
Indeed there are several good reasons to invest time and effort into effective processes & procedures:-
- Well documented processes reduce mistakes and help teams work effectively together.
- Strong processes help people new to the job understand what is going on.
- Processes are owned by the business and reduce disruption when people move on.
- Processes can help in wider communication by helping the whole business understand what is wanted.
- Processes usually lend themselves to measurement both of the process and the outcomes.
- Documented Processes form a basis to discuss changes in the business and it’s markets both internally and externally
The basic process Maturity Matrix came out of Carnegie Mellon University in the US (see below).
Processes or procedures ranking at “Standardised” or offer improved scaleability advantaged and support business growth. At rankings above “Standardised” there is a focus on identifying how the procedure may have to change to meet future needs – this of course requires more involvement by senior managers who are likely to see more clearly what changes in the business environment may be on the horizon. The highest level of maturity is identified by processes and procedures that delivers most value and somehow has the ability to adapt to changing demands – this may be as simple as a set of metrics and reviewing performance of the process at appropriate intervals ( maybe monthly).
The higher rating of business process in the Carnegie Mellon model are characterised by response to change and this will inevitably requires more senior executive involvement, but by whom and with what skills a 2007 paper by Michael Hammer although focused on larger business gives some important insights
Two of Hammers key elements for optimised processes are:-
- Move away from a task focus to a process focus – businesses tend to start putting in structure by standardising tasks. Processes tend to have a much broader objective and include the wants and needs of suppliers and clients .
- Since processes tend to cut across various parts of the business – then senior management must take an ongoing interest.
To the above I would add a third – have a way of measuring the effectiveness of processes to deliver what they were designed to do – that way if processes start to fail there is a warning mechanism.
So invest in processes they are scaleable and are the property of the business- individuals are less scaleable and more portable.
Processes and People the key elements in business delivery – neglect either at your peril
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