Archiv der Kategorie: Management

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Business processes are rarely the problem

Digitalization increases the proportion of mechanically consecutively executed steps that are performed by computers at an incredible speed. This fulfills the dream of many process designers – finally the flows can be introduced reliably. The fact that only simple operations can be determined is overseen with the amount of documents regarding inputs, outputs, KPIs and process steps. However, the VUCA reality requires the ability to react to short-term changes. And these skills are still provided by humans – albeit not as fast as computers. Despite advancing digitalization, the road blocks of recent years must still be taken into account.

It is a surprising phenomenon that the people, who work the most with business processes, are the biggest impediment to application. As Peter Drucker puts it: „Anyone who only has a hammer as a tool will see a nail in every problem“. The next few points illustrate such shortcomings.

  • Processes are not code
    Even if digitization is currently putting business flows back on the agenda, so those parts that are continuously executed by people remain the issues. The flows are not a program code that you „upload“ to employees and then everything runs smoothly. It is rather the case that everything runs DESPITE the determined operations.
    This requires the consideration of the employees when describing the activities. It only needs so much specification that the missing subtleties can be added by the employees as soon as they have understood the flow.
  • Described is only half the battle
    Since we are all driven by targets, the outcomes we produce have to be measurable. It is not a question of abolishing the description – only what is printable is valuable. It is more important that you do not stop, when the flow is documented. How useful are the best instructions, if nobody can fulfill them. Many a responsible person hides behind the flood of flowcharts, which he has created and forgets that the real work is only just beginning.
    Those affected must be introduced into process thinking, understand the business process and recognize their part in the realization – the sooner, the better.
  • Processes are a top management task
    The biggest hurdles in the realization are the decision-makers. Of course they are on fire at the beginning and announce the necessary guiding principles – from end to end. It usually does not take long for other topics to become more important – unfortunately, before the procedural measures are fully implemented. That way, managers undermine their own intentions and have to face the shambles of their wishes within a very short time – which does not prevent them from starting the next but one initiative on the shards. Over time, this leads to a multi-project portfolio, endless reprioritization, frustrated employees and a desire from above: Do the one thing, without let doing the other.
    As long as the decision-makers do not consider the flows in all their tasks and ensure that they do not get stuck in the end, business flows have no chance of create their impact.
  • People will not do, what they do not understand
    Although these actions permeate the day-to-day business and actually affect all employees and managers, the responsible people make great efforts to protect the flow descriptions in such a way that only selected people get a glimpse. Even after the sequences have been approved and released for realization, efforts are rarely made to inform employees comprehensively. There is no big picture to explain the rough interplay, or the critical issues, or the new skills that are needed, or the workflow that is actually to be executed by the employees.
    As long as the business processes are treated as secret knowledge, without explaining the notation, the documentation is not made available and the parties involved cannot join, the employees will resistively let the tsunami pass over them without changing anything – business as usual.

Bottom line: Digitization is once again crying out for new flows – for all regions, cultures and languages. Business Process Management (BPM) is an honorable discipline, so there are no more unknowns. All elements, procedures, methods and formats are available as best practices. And yet the initiatives are still unsatisfactory. This is partly due to

  • Wrong understanding: Processes are not code
  • Missing dissemination: Described is only half the battle
  • Lack of support: Processes are a top management task
  • Real resistance of those affected: People will not do, what they do not understand

As long as those affected are forgotten and leaders continue to afford this homemade chaos, the cycles of unsatisfactory BPM activities will repeat. Business processes are rarely the problem.

Agilemma – Spirits that I’ve cited, my commands ignore

Even if you fasten your seat belt, close the door and place a group of doorwomen in front of the office, as a manager you cannot hide from the demands of the VUCA world. The speed at which you have to react and the amount of skills required no longer allow us to rely on the rigid frameworks of the past. If even the American military sets up its troops with a new managing style, it should become clear to the last one that the time has come for new leadership styles. Since the solution is different for everyone, we have to design our own approach. At the same time, we run the risk of becoming sorcerer’s apprentices and being overrun by the released forces. – Spirits that I’ve cited, my commands ignore.

There are three aspects that tear you apart as a leader and give rise to the fear that you will lose control forever, once you have opened the floodgates.

  • New concepts
    What does it take to let go and engage in spontaneous improvisations that lead to a convincing result done by the self-organized participants? So far, everyone’s commitment has been crushed by distributing tasks, competence and responsibility on different shoulders. The greatest effect is achieved when everything is in one hand and the group takes responsibility for the result. People do not only spare the unproductive time of detailed planning, the slowing down of colleagues due to excessive control or the relief that is created by assigning blame to others. Those who do not drive these changes forward will be driven by the changes – now, or perhaps not before tomorrow.
  • Different leadership styles
    The troops stand no longer in line and follow orders. They have their own ideas and conceptions which they want to implement. The competition stops taking place between the own team mates but with other groups. In the future the individual destiny will depend on the fate of the whole team. This means for the manager that the organization is no longer developed by designing the positions and regularly control the behavior of the employees. The boss is now a coach, fostering his employees as an available contact person and solving the insolvable issues. The group is promoted as a whole, learns together and shares the joy and sorrow of the outcomes. If you don’t get involved, you lose the loyalty of your employees and thus your purpose as a manager.
  • Value-based governance
    In the past nothing functioned without governance and in groups it will never work without it. The personal commitment is the main reason for the willingness of the employees to get involved. The laws, standards and guidelines are the regulations that you HAVE to follow – otherwise you will receive more or less defined sanctions. In the end, this leads to doing things right – especially in the economic sense. This type of governance is exacerbated by filtered information, whose credo is shaped by „knowledge is power“ – it is not entirely wrong to either speak of censorship. The new approach focuses on doing the right thing out of inner conviction. The fuel is not the fear of punishment, but the intrinsic commitment to your task. This requires information distributors, who keep the involved people up to date. Those who cannot apply this value-based management are crushed by the old rules and eventually become obsolete.

This does not mean that doors and ways are opened to anarchy. It is about giving the team, and thus each individual employee, the freedom to achieve more with the existing strengths, instead of exhausting oneself with senseless and futile (self-) limitations.

Bottom line: The master of these magical powers is not the sorcerer’s apprentice, but the master. The loss of control of the trainee comes from the fact that he did not practice enough yet. That is why he formulates a bit early:

Bubble! Bubble!
Some route,
that, for the purpose,
water flows
and with a rich, full flood
to pour to the bath.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

without having the capability to reverse the command. One or the other can certainly imagine the helplessness of the sorcerer’s apprentice. All concerned people are still integrated into the old structures. At the same time, many recognize the opportunities, but do not want to get into the situation of the sorcerer’s apprentice. For this reason, you should pro-actively take care of the new approaches of agility. In delimited special operation zones, which are exempt from the old rules, these new concepts, different management styles and value-based governance can be practiced by everybody. The Agilemma will slowly dissolve that way and the spirits that one has cited, you no longer want to get rid of, but to use it in growing circles.