Business processes are essential in every organization. You have to follow the instructions to get the result you want. But there’s a difference between executing a process and process-driven management.In an editorial for Electronics Weekly, David Manners writes:
Process-driven management is the bane of modern companies, says David Milne founding CEO of Wolfson Microelectronics.
“Process-driven management abolishes the need to think,” Milne tells me.
This is not to say that a business process isn’t important. We need business processes to get things done every day. To cook a meal consistently, you need a recipe. To play a symphony, you need a score. To run a company, you need patterns and documentation that describe the business as a process. Most of the time, you have to take one step at a time.
But having a process is not a reason to stop thinking. Manners continues:
Once everyone in a company is fixed into certain directions, resource requirements and goals it becomes difficult for an individual to implement a change in any of those things.
But circumstances may require change. Opportunities may arise which require change.
The difference between following a business process and managing by business process is subtle but crucial. Following a process means that you are doing what must be done in the way that it must be done to generate the anticipated results.
But “managing by business process” means that the way you motivate others and explore opportunities is dominated by rule-following, not by being open to ideas and seeking input. Manners asks a related question:
So how does an enterprising individual, recognising the need for change, seek to get change implemented in a process-driven managed company?
“Boards are terrified of people who don’t follow the process,” replies Milne.
If, at a management meeting, someone comes up with a new opportunity to invest or a change to strategy, there’s only one response. “They are asked to write a report about it,” says Milne.
That’s certainly an effective way to kill a new idea.
Process-driven management is not the same as having a workable business process. The difference is whether or not the process is more important than the people. We need to try and follow good patterns, but we must be more open to the input of others than we are at doing things the way they have always been done.