What Process Teaches Us About People

Process improvement projects fail more often than they succeed. Even though there are many documented lessons from these failures, organizations continue to repeat the same mistakes. The result is wasted project spend and a process that is as bad (or worse) than when the project started. For would-be disrupters this is detrimental. Launching a disruptive idea and failing in execution makes your company trust you less and your customers are not going to risk their continuity with you anymore.

People improvement is a big deal for organizations as well. In fact, the stakes with improving talent are much higher than with processes. But because the cost / benefit analysis is harder to quantify with talent management decisions, mistakes are less often recognized as failures. Interestingly, the top causes of failure in process improvement initiatives are the same for people improvement initiatives. Here are the top three issues and the lessons you can apply to people improvement:

  1. Choosing the right focus: 80% of your value will come from 20% of your processes. The same holds true with people. When companies choose a process to improve that isn’t in that top 20%, they suffer two losses – 1) spending too much to fix too little and 2) losing out on improving something more valuable. With your people, focus your efforts and resources on individual positions or teams that are the most valuable to the organization.
  2. Quality vs. Value: It is a corporate plague today – quality is confused with value. Quality problems exist when a process isn’t operating the way it should. Value problems exist when a process works fine but produces a low value output. When determining how to improve your people, you need to know what the problem is – are they executing poorly or do they not have the aptitude to grow with the organization and continuously add value? Knowing this is the key to deciding between grooming or replacing.
  3. Disengagement: Getting off to a great start doesn’t mean you’ll have a great finish. Process improvement projects that launch successfully are often taken for granted by management and project resources are pulled to work on other things. Failure ensues. The same happens with people – when you place them on an improvement plan and see initial results, you still have to keep your improvement structure in place, e.g. mentoring, deliverables tracking and training. Assuming they will continue to develop at the same rate after you disengage will usually result in relapse.

Enter your email address at the top right of the page to have all megadisrupter articles delivered to your inbox!