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When Leaders Overlook Process in Service Organizations …

March 16th, 2012

Leadership…we want to be leaders and want leadership.  When you have a leadership role you personally grow and you can help the organizations in which you work and the individuals with whom you work.  When we are group members, leadership sets a vision and inspires us.  Leadership, like great architecture that conceives of a soaring skyline, can be magical.

Process…a series of operations which bring about a result.  It is a logical, nearly mechanical algorithm devoid of emotion.  You unemotionally define the inputs, suppliers, required actions and desired outcome in terms so you can measure.  You strive for stability so you can then improve capability as measured by customers.  Defining each brick and how they are assembled might not sound so inspirational, but you’re kidding yourself if you think it’s any less important.

Leaderships’ vision of that skyline and processes’ preoccupation with laying bricks can seem far apart and disconnected.   Yet when leadership looks past process, the results are eviscerating to any vision and corrosive to the leaders themselves.

In service organizations, processes are always driven by people, and managing the people for each process is the work of a process owner.   The process is the service and the people are the process.  So the people are the service, trying to be productive each and every day within their process.  Getting processes to work as a system is about getting people to work together toward a final objective.

When leaders ignore process they ignore the people that are the service.  And that never turns out well with your customer.  A current TV show has CEO’s come down from their lofty perches to work ordinary jobs to get a feel for the people and what they do day in and day out.   In a recent episode, the CEO was stunned at the impossibility of work processes.  Workers were stressed out, fought with each other and delivered poor service to customers.  As you can well imagine, no one believed in the CEO much less the CEO’s vision, as he soon found out!

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A smart CEO might hand the problem over for process redesign.  He might also say with empathy that this is just the wrong way to treat these people and the customer, and do what is necessary to make it right for both.  Theoretically, the two statements lead to the same place.  But the former continues with the same disconnected state between leadership and people while the latter begins a transformation.

The point of all this is to remind ourselves that working with processes in a services organization is about working with people.  That when we see leadership disconnected from the concerns of process we probably see leadership disconnected from people.  And when we find that situation we’ll probably find dysfunctional teams and dissatisfied customers.  BUT,  when we see leadership concerned with making processes work we will see people who find their jobs fair and who are dedicated to their mission, which should lead to more satisfied and loyal customers.

So all of us as leaders and members of a team need to think about the processes upon which our vision is built because, in so doing, we think about the people in the organization and the customer of our service.  And everyone in that chain will notice the attention, how their work is made easier and thus buys into the larger vision.  If you’d like to discuss the points in this article, contact me.

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