Who Cares About Process Work?

Our current mini quiz asks readers to say Who cares about process work in their organization.  So far we have only had 13 responses so its a bit early to conclude anything, but, the responses do suggest an interesting pattern.  In effect, each option got 2 votes, save for the option that the middle managers believe in process and are working to sell process ideas to others.  Excepting this option, the answers range from No one cares about process to organizations whose CEO encourages process work.

Assuming this pattern holds up throughout the month, it suggests what has frustrated many of us concerned with processes and the market for process services.  Specifically, there is no strong movement toward processes.  Instead, some believe and some don’t.  Some encourage process work and some don’t.   

Let’s face it:  the Process Perspective has been around a long time.  It was promoted by Rummler and Six Sigma in the Eighties, and by Hammer and many others in the Nineties, and by those supporting BPM and BPMS in the Zeros.   It’s as if people get excited about processes every decade or so, play with the latest approach for awhile, and then drift away, until something new comes along to excite interest again.

If I was pressed to suggest a reason, I’d suggest that process people, as a whole, put too much emphasis on techniques, and not enough on outcomes.  We argue about notations, and software tools, but don’t spend enough time showing how the use of process techniques results in savings, in new products, happy customers, or large returns on investments.

We won’t get the kind of commitment to process that we hope for until everyone in the executive suite is really convinced that process focused organizations do significantly better, year in and year out, than their more functionally oriented rivals.  To those of us that believe, its obvious that Toyota has used a process focused approach to go from a small pre-war Japanese company that admired auto giants like GM and Ford from afar, to the largest and most successful auto company in the world.  Those of use who support the process focused approach need to do a lot more work to convey this conviction, and supporting data, to others.