Over the last thirty years of working with a wide variety of companies, I have found that there has been a significant increase in the use of processes to identify, solve, and implement solutions that plague businesses every day. This embrace of a systematic way to go about business is one of the main reasons for our increase in productivity. So if results have shown us that the use of process works, then why do so many processes fail? The easy answer would be to blame and shoot the project managers, but they’re usually just the messengers. No, it’s typically not the project managers that bring an entire process crashing down to its knees. Instead I have found three common elements that are present in most, if not all, failed processes and they act like Kryptonite to every super process.
The three disrupters that make up Kryptonite are:
1) The Disconnect from Business Reality 2) Need for Speed 3) Ego
Used individually or coupled together, these three elements will kill any good process and, superman of the office or not, even you might not be able to recover from the Kryptonite.
Disconnect from Business Reality
One must remember that processes and project management are merely tools to leverage the experience and intelligence of the organization and to marry it with what is known as “Best Practices”to solve business problems. It makes sense and most of the time it works quite well, just as long as the focus of the process is to solve the problem and not to run the process. In other words, don’t let the tail wag the dog! The best approach to keep the process real is a reflexive loop of conversations that ensures the process is in alignment with the stated goal. This conversation loop is an interaction between process leader and business leader where they marry the need for process with the need to drive results. So picking the right personnel is key.
The Need for Speed!
How many of you are familiar with this little scenario? I can’t tell you how often I am in meetings and there is a discussion taking place around a problem. As talks continue I see an executive sitting in the meeting, bouncing their leg up and down in sheer frustration at the potential time being wasted talking about the problem instead of solving it. Now don’t get me wrong, I work with these speed demons every day and I love how quickly they can get to the essence of an issue. But this addiction to move and move fast and to make speedy decisions leads to losing focus on the big picture and how this solution supports the rest of the organization. So pretty quickly, these speed freaks pull the process apart. When asked how they will integrate this solution with the rest of the organization they smile and wink and move on to the last but most important element.
Ego. What can I say? We all have one! Some are bigger than others, some are more under control, but ego is a powerful aphrodisiac and it allows individuals to see the world in their own special way. And when it comes to running a successful process, nothing is more disruptive than the all knowing and understanding Wizard of Oz. First, you need to understand why process is difficult for these folks. This speaks to the foundation of creating a process and that, as I mentioned earlier, is leveraging the experience and intelligence and marrying the two with best practice. But when you are the Wizard you have the most relative experience and, of course, you are very intelligent and you probably wrote the book on best practice around this subject. In addition, you are probably a speed freak too! So, if you already have the answer, why waste the time working with others on a process? Most of the time these “leaders”volunteer to run the process, that way they are able to make sure the outcome matches what they know to be true.
Now there are certainly other ways that process falls apart, but over the years I have found these three to be the main factors in its demise. So watch for them, make sure you have the right people in place and are committed to finding the right solution.
My goal for this blog has always been two-fold. First, I have the opportunity to share my insights and years of experience with you, the reader. And second, I myself get to hear your thoughts, opinions, experiences, etc. To make this blog a mutually beneficial experience, I would ask that you take the time to post your comments, your questions and your own war stories from your years in the business. Let’s use this blog to generate dialogue on the issues we’ve all faced in our businesses and work together to come to some great solutions.