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TLS Continuum Part 15: Focus on the process

Acme Manufacturing is a proud firm that has been serving its customers for nearly a century but lately they have been experiencing some problems. Just yesterday their largest customer called the CEO of Acme and told them if the reliability of their products did not drastically improve, the customer was going to take their business elsewhere. The CEO immediately calls a management meeting and tells the department managers and HR if the human capital assets can’t do the job correctly then fire them all and start from scratch. But is the answer to Acme’s problem people related or is there something else in the way?

I have been involved in some rather heated discussions with a number of individuals over the years in answer to this question. It is my contention that in the majority of the cases when customer demands are not fulfilled the problem is with the process not the people delivering the process. Granted Laurence Peter in his book The Peter Principle suggested that managers get promoted to the point of incompetency. However in most cases our human capital assets are trained and educated how to do their job. Every once in a while, we make a hiring misjudgment and place the wrong person in the wrong job and through coaching our team members we can resolve that issue fairly quickly.

What we left with is the core problem in our scenario. There is something in the process that is causing the delivery problems. As a result we need to change our focus away from the people side of the issue and concentrate on the flow through the process.

In Part 14 of this series we discussed the strategy of developing process maps. I would suggest taking it step further and creating a process map that shows every document, every decision, every time span on the map. Turn your focus to understanding what happens from the time the materials of your product or service enters the front door until it is delivered to your customer. Complete a deep dive of the process as it flows through your organization. You want to be able to identify where the hiccups or obstacles are to the smooth flow. By completing this effort and being very careful to really track it you will find why Acme Manufacturing was having the quality problems.

Consider these two scenarios from real life in the business world:

Scenario 1: An organization is in the process of hiring a new middle management executive. In the process of completing the hiring process, the job requisition is reviewed and approved three times by the same person.

Scenario 2: A friend used to work for a medical device company as a quality engineer. The organization decided to move her desk from the 2nd floor to the first floor without moving her files. So in order to obtain a required file to complete a required quality assessment she had to walk the entire length of the building go up stairs, get the file she needed and return to her desk.

These are not people problems; these are process problems. Process problems directly affect whether we are meeting the demands of the voice of the customer. Process problems determine whether your CEO is getting the same phone calls as the CEO of Acme Manufacturing. In order to have a successful TLS Continuum journey we need to change the focus from the people to the process. Understand how the organization flow is interrelated with the human capital assets of the organization and its internal and external customers. Carry it a step further and understand the complete process from beginning to end.

Lets take the recruitment process. From the time you release a job requisition, do you know where the materials enter the process. Does your process map show what the outside suppliers go through to get their segment delivered to your organization on time and correctly? Do you’re outside suppliers make available to you the process flow through their organization?

Human tendency is to blame the operator. I get that. However strategic organizations understand that is not the case. The problem lies in the process steps. We will only be able to continue forward when we focus on the process not on the people.

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TLS Continuum Part 15: Focus on the process

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