There are two axioms that I have found to be true in almost 100% of the places I have visited to work on their processes :
1) There are a large number of process issues that are common amongst most companies, regardless of market sector and line of business.
2) Most people in the company know what their process issues are but don't address them.
I wanted to explain a little more about what I meant, having listened to and read the replies that came forward on this.
1) There are a large number of process issues that are common amongst most companies, regardless of market sector and line of business
By this I mean that using Pareto's rule (80/20) 80% of the process issues that turn up in a company are similar across most organisations. These include items such as Segregation of Duties not being managed appropriately; Authorisations taking to long or being inappropriately routed; Inappropriate reward systems leading to processes being bypassed; Silo behaviour and Inappropriate process ownership. Of course a business that is manufacturing widgets at a rate of 10,000 per hour using automated manufacturing processes is going to have a large number of process issues that lack any commonality with a service company operating a 1000 person call centre. But at a macro level I am willing to bet that there are a lot of process issues that are common amongst both these types of business.
2) Most people in the company know what their process issues are but don't address them
Back when I used to work with the internal audit group of a large American multinational I used to spend two weeks in a specific business function looking at their processes and talking to the people that design, manage and operate them. At the end of the two weeks I would present a report - along with the rest of the audit team - that would identify weaknesses or deficiencies we had identified. In 80% of the cases the reply from management would be some variation of "We already knew that". Of course my reply would be "Well if you already knew that why hasn't it been fixed?" There were always reasons : Time, money, resources, priorities etc. But it didn't remove the fact that this were generally known issues that could have been fixed. The reason many of these were not fixed was because the department didn't realise, or understand, the business impact of not fixing them. It's ironic that it usually takes a major catastrophe that loses the company money to identify why a relatively small change should have been made. (Think of the company that kept it's computer back-ups in an on-site cupboard and lost both the computer room and the storage cupboard in a major fire. Sourcing a back-up computer to run their business on was easy, finding a back-up of their customer and transaction database was less so.
There are, of course, other reasons why these processes were not followed. I am indebted to Stephen Baishya for providing a small list from his own experience
- Fear of looking bad if the cause of the problem is my responsibility - "blame" culture
- Fear of reprisal if I make someone else look bad if the cause of the problem is someone else's responsibility - "management by fear" culture
- Deep-set organisational beliefs that people are always the cause of problems, not processes - often leads to ineffectual productivity drives, training, coaching/performance management, i.e. get people to work harder rather than actually fixing the process
- Desire for instant gratification - fixing root causes can take time; I need to say I've done something NOW
These are all valid reasons, but do point, fundamentally, to a cultural issue where the company is not set up to appropriately manage the issues that come with running effective processes.
So, given that you know what the problems usually are, and you have pretty common problems that are not specific to your industry, why are you not addressing these issues already?
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