Managing Through Processes

You are dedicated to being successful.  You know your department’s processes ‘inside and out’.  You should, after all, you designed these processes to address challenges or opportunities as they revealed themselves over time.  You’re not the first person to focus attention on processes: in the first half of the 1900’s, Dr Deming told the world that systems and/or processes are responsible for the great majority of results.

We work a lot in the field of process development, control and improvement. No doubt, business is process driven and robust processes are crucial to business success. The management of processes should and does require immense amounts of time, attention and reinforcement. Often overlooked, however, is the people side of process driven organizations.

I reflect back on a 60 Minutes piece aired many years ago, interviewing Vice Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. Admiral Hopper projected great knowledge, experience and strength throughout the interview. At the time, she was the highest ranking female naval officer then on active duty. She was one very impressive person with an amazing biography!
Admiral Hopper’s response to a leadership question from the interviewer has stuck with me through the years. “You manage things; you lead people.” In the important work of managing processes (things), equal attention must be devoted to the leadership of those who develop and utilize those processes (people).
If leadership can be defined as the ability to influence people to attain certain goals, let’s consider running the business by processes as being one of the goals. Certainly, robust processes are necessary, but the leader must focus his attention on adherence to process. If it becomes clear that the leader thinks process adherence is important, everyone else will think it is important.
Keeping it simple, the most effective technique of reinforcement is asking questions. When something goes wrong, perhaps a significant quality problem, the effective leader reinforces process by asking “What does the process say we should do?” “Did we do it?” “If not, why did we deviate from the process?” “What does the process say we should have done?”
Managing through processes dictates that we say what we do and do what we say. The leader focuses the attention of the organization on doing what we say. His or her energy can best be spent focusing on that second half of the process mandate. So it may not be a matter of “Managing through Processes”, but more on “Leading through Processes” – a shift toward influencing the organization toward the goal of operating as a process driven business.

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