It’s an age-old conundrum. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s not a simple question, because you can’t have a chicken without an egg, nor can you have an egg without a chicken. Similarly, companies often struggle with the question of whether PEOPLE can or should drive PROCESS as opposed to the PROCESS driving PEOPLE.
It reminds me, too, of the trickle-down vs. trickle up concept when it’s applied to corporate culture. Is corporate culture driven by top executives and then embraced by the peons? Or does a corporation’s culture actually begin with the rank and file and trickle up? Hundreds of books and volumes of research have been written on this topic. Because it seems quite obvious that, once again, you can’t have one without the other.
Before I move on to the actual discussion at hand, here are a couple of recently published books on the topic of corporate culture:
The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, by Daniel Coyle. January 2018.
Lead Your Tribe, Love Your Work: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Creating a Culture that Matters, by Piyush Patel, February 2018.
Generally speaking, companies don’t start out with 1,000 or even 100 employees. They start small, with a handful (or two) of employees hired by the entrepreneurial founders to get the business going. At that stage, it’s rare to find strict processes at work. There’s a tacit understanding that business hours say 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. There’s a tacit understanding that bathing suits are not suitable (pun intended) attire. The “process” for taking time off is pretty loose. You ask your boss and the boss approves your vacation. Easy as pie.
But before you know it, hopefully, there are 25 or so employees in your company. And everyone wants to take off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Well, that doesn’t work because the show must go on. So someone, could be an executive or it could be, say, an office manager takes it himself or herself to develop a process for authorizing time off. And still, it’s pretty loose. Maybe you actually have to email your vacation request to the office manager, who keeps a calendar of such requests, and you wait to find out if your vacation is approved. Maybe the entire “process” takes a day or two.
And then one day, you wake up and you’re working for a company with 100 or more employees. And there’s now an HR department. And you’ve never even met the HR manager. That person doesn’t know you and doesn’t necessarily care about you and any special needs you might have for time off. There’s definitely a process in place now. Your company now has an Intranet (maybe it’s SharePoint) with an employee self-help section where you can fill out a vacation request form. And you can wait for it to go through channels of approval before you hear back. It’s not draconian. It’s just a process.
If you look closely at the image above, there is a person in the middle of the schematic. And that’s a pretty good place for the person to be. Why? Because PEOPLE have to drive the PROCESS in order for it to be effective. It’s not a democracy where every person in the company votes on every process that’s put in place. But it is nonetheless people who create the process and recognize when it has become ineffective, outdated, arcane, counter-productive. And that’s when process change takes place. The process doesn’t have an alert mechanism to trigger change. It’s a human who does that.
There’s a tipping point at which a company needs to have processes in place, governing not just time off but pretty much every aspect of employee management. Healthcare. Disability. Hiring. Firing. You name it.
Now, let’s say you work for a manufacturing company. Now we’re talking about a whole different kind of process. The process that takes raw materials in and spits out finished goods. And that’s a story for another day.
Contact C5 Insight to learn more about the tools we recommend for business process management. The conversation will begin with an understanding the challenges you and your people face. Only then will we be able to figure out the processes required to make the process work.
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