Missing Links- Mend them with Processes

Talent acquisition, mergers, sales promotion, supply chain management, there is one thing for sure which is common in all of these, you may be thinking what can that be? The common feature that is required for the smooth functioning of each of these is called –  Process. Every aspect of any business involves process, that too the one which is well written and implicates one function with another in a manner that resolves most of the problems.

Large or small, do not let the size of your organisation decide your success in the market, the ignorance of intricate processes may delay the chances of your company’s state of opulence.

There are often queries in the forum related to people being difficult to handle, a latest one talks about how to stop the IT Manager from buying a laptop and a mobile, and the main solution for this is a requirement of a well drafted and creatively designed process. In fact, with the technological advancement some companies also use ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or customized softwares which can run for a particular business unit but generally have problems when the process integration is required across the oganisation.

In such cases, business process re-engineering comes as the savior, and now companies have specific systems to align their processes well with each department and this is called Business Process Management- where the best of BPR (Business Process Re-engineering) and TQM (Total Quality Management) is utilized to interlink the departmental processes.

Apart from using automated processes, what else can companies do to lessen the length and errors which occur through lack of processes?

Here are my observations, which have been gathered through experiences at many organisations:

First and foremost, a well documented Process: Drafting any process requires a step by step approach, what comes first and then next and so on and so forth, once the documentation is done properly it becomes not only easy to understand but user friendly too. Any missing link can create monetary losses as well as be time consuming. Sometimes fatal accidents also happen when a small link in the process goes missing.

Specific and action oriented: A creatively drafted process surely needs to be specific and should be able to identify the actions required. Be it procurement of goods, supply chain, or performance management the process should clearly indicate what follows next.

Learning curve: Starting from setting goals, to acquisition and retention of human resource, till their exit, a properly designed process can help reduce the learning curve as everything is documented and can be used for future purposes.

Useful in replication: When the company has well written processes they can replicate the business unit much faster, especially in the retail industry if the business needs to be expanded or in franchisee set up, replication becomes faster and teething does not create much problems.

Cost effective. The more repeated the SOPs the less cost it incurs for the company and the department. Through economies of scale, an operation becomes better as it becomes more familiar with the standard operating procedures of the organization.

Integration of various departments: With the standard operating procedures identified and documented, the various departments can be integrated. One benefit is that every department knows where the steps of action start and where it ends, and then the next department takes over, which makes the functioning of the systems smooth.

Less dependency on People: No, there is no harm in being dependent on a person/employee, but companies should not make employees indispensable, clear cut processes restrict such things. Also, lack of process increases dependency on some people and very often it is seen that such key resources at some point of time in their career take advantage of their position. So in order to control certain behavior a well crafted process helps.

More time for creativity and innovation: Although it is not directly linked but with the availability of various processes in the organization the team members can think out of the box as day to day problems do not occur that often and are generally taken care by the excess of SOPs.

The proper identification and documentation of business processes is imperative to an organization’s success.  There is no hard and fast rule to adhere to processes all the time, as we are thinking beings hence there are times when an individual will have to deviate from the normal procedure to get the job done.

Happy processing….:) (not literally)

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  • ARSofi

    Hi Archna

    Documenting business processes has become an important initiative for all organizations. The advantages of identifying, understanding and evaluating key business processes to determine their effectiveness in meeting business objectives has been recognized for some time.

    A common approach is to develop an end-to-end process flow. An important question to be answered before starting is what does end-to-end really mean? For the head of a Department it may mean viewing a business process from the time it enters the Department’s control until it is either completed or handed off to another Department or external Organization.

    It may mean only those processes owned and controlled by the Department. For a Division Executive, it may include all the Departments in the Division and be a means to identify gaps and overlaps to determine improvement opportunities. And yet another perspective is that of the CEO who wants to use a process-centric approach to the business rather than the typical functional view and achieve a means to assess the impacts of strategic decisions on the business processes critical to their Organization.

    How are all the different processes identified and put together to form a full end-to-end view? Where should it start and where should it end? Should a company document its business as one large process covering all aspects of day-to-day activities? Can the needs of the individual groups be met and still provide what is needed for the good of the whole Organization? Many Organizations try a centralized approach but end up going to a level of detail that is difficult to manage and maintain. They struggle with identifying the optimal level of detail and how much autonomy each group wants or is capable of when documenting their processes. The initiative often becomes mired in politics, disagreements over methodology and tools, what the “right” level of detail should be, process ownership and the sheer volume of information involved. Other Organizations allow Departments the freedom to decide what methods and tools to use for documenting their business processes with the expectation that they meet their performance goals and defined objectives. This approach can lead to efficiencies in individual areas which sub-optimize those in others. In most cases, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. The key to successful understanding of an Organization’s end-to-end processes is spending the time to answer questions like these to define a plan that creates the right balance between centralized and decentralized process documentation and provides people with the necessary tools to get the job done.

    Happy Processing :) Not literally (again)…..

  • Matt Sabetti

    You’re really onto something in your discussion of process and its inexorable importance in all organizational activities. Many companies focus only on content. They fail to see the “middle course of confluence” between content and process that allows a firm to see commonalities of process that are present during seemingly distinct content issues. This leads to micromanagement of problems and an inefficient use of resources.

    In Resonanz: Energy Dynamics in Conscious Organizations, Sabetti’s new book builds a paradigm of what he refers to as “simplexity”- finding the simple in the seemingly complex and similarly allowing natural complexity to evolve from simplicity e.g., a few core operating core values – which allow professionals to see, using a common language of energy fields, whether the problem calls for evolution of ideas, or involution to more concrete forms, for the firm, group, or even a customer and a salesperson to effect successful interaction.

    When you look at the best places to work, the overarching principle is a unified process. A recent article in Harvard magazine cites Southwest Airlines as discussing a “singular truth,” in this case a uniformity or consistent message in the reporting processes. Moreover, these firms sees the interconnectedness of all that they do as a given and necessary to preserve firm wholeness. Just take WalMart’s nightmare (possible class action suit taken all the way to the Supreme Court) over treating female employees differently from males. You couldn’t ask for worse press. How can a firm be “green” toward the environment and disingenuous to its employees? Sabetti cites this dissonance or pervasive “disease resonance” as deleterious to building a firm’s consciousness. It’s worth checking out if examiing just how key process is to firm success is important to your understanding. It’s never the intellectual “correctness” of your argument that unites a team. It’s the power of resonance, or connecting with individuals on a personal, professional, and spiritual basis. Great article!!!

  • Ulhas Chandratre

    Opened very good topic for the discussion.
    Basicaly I found with the conventional organistion one big problem that is ‘Mind set’.
    In one of my organisation when I was insisting for the POA- Process Oriented Approch, one very senior executive asked why do we need it, without this we are doing good business. I tried to convence him that if you would have to have the processes you might be in the position to make your profit double.

    When such a senior leaders are reluctant to establish & follow the processes there would be 2 -3 reasons are ‘Fear of failure, worry about self Position and demolition of favorisum’.

    Particulary in such organisations change should happen from the top and leadership team members should accept the concept ‘ POA’.

    Off cource while introducing processes it is important to ensure the sucess of the processes.

    -Ulhas Chandratre
    Senior HR Professional from Pune working as Associate Vice President-HR

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Thank you..I’m delighted to read such wonderful insights on the topic.
    The examples given are extremely helpful for all of us to understand the nitty gritty of process in organisations.

    Thanks again Wave Leader…

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Thank you Ulhas for your valuable contribution here.
    Most people in organisations are insecure of following processes as they think it will make their position weak in company, whereas it is always the other way around. If you as a leader will follow, people will also follow your path and will be more respectful to your position.



  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Thank you Sofi….great work…In organisations it gets very complexed when processes are not documented. Most of the problems can be resolved through having a system oriented structure and Processes for each department.

  • Matt Sabetti

    Sorry for the delay in responding. Thanks for your “nod,.” Archna. In my experience as a consultant and in my research of what best companies do differently, I guess the simplest way to sum it up that they rely on the spontaneous response, in the moment, of their employees. These companies do have guidelines, but surprisingly few. We are so conditioned, in a “command and control” environment, to attempt to engineer change. We impose structure from the top or the outside. The best firms let things happen organially, i.e. in physics, we are governed by three laws of wholeness, and they follow the movement of energy. There is Gathering, as ideas or people come together, say with a new idea for a company. Then there is Distribution, or the movement of ideas outward toward the periphery of the organiation, similar to the effect caused by dropping a pebble into a pool of water. The third is Circuitry, where all unwhole or unfinished processes come back to us, perhaps in the form of product defects, customer complaints, etc. The best firms allows movement to lead of the creation of a “field,” the field leads to form, and then form leads to structure.It’s important to note that these firms don’t just “let it happen,” either. They spend an inordinate amount of time in the hiring process, to avoid poor organizational culture fit. They also respond to “life messages,” when things have gone into chaotic disorder. Take Howard Schulltz at Starbuck’s. He tried to step away from running the firm, and he spent a great deal of time trying to groom Jim Donald from Pathmark. However, at Schultz puts it, “we lost our soul,” indicating that organizational consciousness had not progressed but deteriorated. He came back and “started from scratch.” The little things that made them great weren’t getting done. For example, longer wait times, dirty stores, etc. all indicate a lack of consciousness on the part of employees. When little things start to slip, when you start to cut corners and say, it’s okay, a creeping disease resonance can take hold of an organization.

    In this way, process, then, becomes content. It’s like the Heisenberg Principle in Physics. As soon as you measure something, you become part of the measurement. To put it as Marshall Mcluhan, the Canadian researcher, so aptly did: “the medium is the message.” How we do something becomes interwoven with the message itself!

    Still, unfortunately, most firms work backwards, imposing structure and then attempting to get the organization to fit, against the natural desire of things to be whole. Notice how when you cut your finger, it heals, or how nature, despite our worst pollution, can repair the damage over time?? T

  • Archna Khurana Sharma

    Hey Wave leader, Thanks for replying..and the examples mentioned here are just great, even i haven’t thought about processes the way you did.

    I agree with you completely here that we unfortunately do not let the processes becomes a part of the system, the selfishness generally takes over the process in the firms, where some people become the God and take everything else for a toss..then the company’s runs on their mercy.

    I again thank you for such valuable insights…Look forward for more discussions with you…….

    Lets share the email ids to get in touch.

  • Matt Sabetti

    Thanks for your comments Archna, and congratulations on your forthcoming book. I, too, would like to have further discussions with you. I’ll put my email in my disqus profile, and my Twitter is mattsbos.It’s funny that your comment with regard to the selfishness of others in “commandeering” the process for selfish interests is emblematic of the process becoming the content. In this case, a subverted process ruins the outcome!! In my recently published book called Resonanz Energy Dynamics in Conscious Organizations (should be on Amazon UK for you in India), my brother Stephano and I refer to individuals like this as “wave seducers.” These individuals aren’t always easy to cull out. In fact, they are often astute at playing the corporate game such that they are often heralded as strong performers. They convince their associates to “hitch their wagons” to them in order to get ahead. They work their subordinates to death, and when the dust settles, it comes as a surprise to senior partners or executives that individuals hated to work for these people. They are generally burnt out, and they are often considering leaving the firm.From an energetic standpoint, they tend to suck all the oxygen out of a room. They draw all energy into or toward themselves, because it’s dreadfully clear that they should be the subject of attention. Imagine a meeting in which ideas have been shared, perhaps new proposals have been “floated” for team consideration. As the meeting is winding down, one individual who hasn’t been heard from suddenly pops up with a contentious statement like: “I feel so betrayed,.” maybe even crying. All at once, everyone in the room turns their attention to the “aggrieved” party. All good substance from the meeting is forgotton the individual has succeeded in making the meeting about themselves and their needs, feelings, etc. In less dramatic but more devastating impact, consider the real world example of John Thain, former Goldman Sachs investment banker and CEO of Merrill Lynch. During the international banking meltdown of 2008-2009, He brought several cronies from Goldman to try to “save” Merrill, insisting of course, on magnanimous bonuses. Needless to say, his tenure was short-lived. During the acquisition of Merrill by the Bank of America, Thain again insisted on a multi-million dollar bonus for himself. What he neglected to tell then B of A CEO Ken Lewis was that Merrill was about to report its worst quarter on record, losing $10 billion. During the frantic weekend when the deal was to be consummated, he went on a ski vacation, leaving his subordinates to “deal with it.”The trouble with these wave seducers is that they create dissonance or a more pronounced “disease resonance,” where the energetic movement in the company is in unison– but in a negative way. Wholesale turnover, deteriorating worker morale, etc are the results of this disease resonance. For me, it’s easy to see why process and content are inextricably linked!! Look forward to further sharing…