I was reading a blog post on the Sales Proceess by Micheal Webb, and his closing argument resonated with me quite a bit. One of the biggest benefits of having a process is to ensure you make use of the knowledge already available within your organization. He writes…
“[W]hen someone does something that works better, the organization doesnâ€™t know why it worked. The power of process thinking is in its ability to harness this knowledge for the benefit of the organization”
When thinking about processes, a mistake done by make people on both sides of the table is to think “compliance”. This is why processes have gotten the bad reputation that they have. Just think, would you like to do something just to ensure you dont get into trouble? Or do something which increases your productivity, ensures you get your work done on time and enhances your sense of satisfaction with your job?
The trouble is, most management teams dont see it that way. And neither do most consultants for that matter. What happens in reality is something like the following.
1. Management decides something is not right and something needs to be done to ‘improve’, or get certfied to win more business.
2. Management researches possible solutions and comes up with frameworks (ITIL, CMMI, ISO9001, ISO27001 etc) which promise benefits through ‘best practices’
3. Management tasks someone (either an in-house resource or a consultant) to implement the framework to get the desired result.
(and here is where this breaks down)
4. The implementor see’s the best practices and assumes (for the most part) it is a requirement to follow, no matter the consequences.
5. Processes, work instructions and templates are drawn up by people, most of whom have never been in those particular situations, just to ensure requirements are met (compliance achieved)
6. These processes are thrust upon the employees, leading to mass confusion, dissociation, mistrust and disgruntlement.
7. Audits and appraisals are scheduled forcing people to comply with requirements rather than do their jobs (increasing the above mentioned side effects)
8. Audits and appraisals are held successfully and management is content with its decision.
9. Couple of weeks/months later, the whole team of employees, which made up the company, leave for greener pastures due to non-satisfaction with work environment!
10. Management wins a couple more contracts, since they now ‘comply’ with new framworks, but have no productive people to work on them, instead have (for want of a better word) mules to carry on activies.
11. Organization cannot deliver quality product/services to its new clients, who then leave.
12. Company looses client base, and eventually settles for low yield projects (after downsizing significantly) or closes up shop.
Okay, so maybe i’ve gone a bit too far with the doomsday scenario, but how many of us in mid-level careers can admit not to have seen this happen before?
So whats the solution? Think back to the quote by Micheal Webb. “The power of process thinking is in its ability to harness this knowledge for the benefit of the organization”.
If you are in an organization which is planning for process improvement (specifically CMMI, or any of the ISO families of certifications), think about who’s going to be your partner for transition. Is it going to be someone who does steps 4 and 5? Or someone who will spend time and glean knowledge from YOUR teams to make YOUR processes work better, eventually making sure you have a good work environment to retain your human resources, make them more productive and deliver your projects/services on time and within schedule.
The choice of a transition partner is paramount and not something which should be considered lightly.