In my undergraduate days at Georgia Tech there was a bumper sticker that said “Georgia Tech – We don’t fit the mold, we make it.” This slogan certainly has relevancy in the engineering discipline, but I think it also has application in the business world for process management.
The question is whether or not we become products of the system in which we work or if we help to make the system in which we work. Stated another way, do you just follow the system, or do you help make the system?
I spent the first half of my professional career just following the system. By this I mean that I followed the process given to me without thinking about the why and how. As I matured and assumed more leadership responsibilities, I began to think about organizational processes and efficiency. I started asking questions like “what business need does this process solve?” and “are there more efficient ways to complete this process?”. I started to try to make the mold of the system in which I worked.
Throughout this journey, I’ve had some successes and some failures at making the mold. As important as the business results achieved, I’ve learned a few lessons that are worth sharing. If you are trying to shape, influence, design, or re-engineer systems at your work as part of process management, here are three principals to remember:
Don’t act alone
Cowboys and renegades rarely succeed in a business organization. You can’t go-it alone. Instead, focus on building consensus for your process management ideas within your immediate work group. From this, accomplish and measure successes with your new system to help build a case for your ideas based on merit. This will help you to promote the ideas to next level of the organization.
Don’t criticize the existing system
The existing system may not be broken or bad. Even if it is broken, criticizing it doesn’t establish trust with the existing leadership. Avoid making your ideas and changes a political struggle by not creating a competition between the existing process and your ideas. Remember, you are suggesting change or trying to create something new. Human tendency is to resist change because it puts people out of their comfort zone. Remember also, that the existing process was put in place for a reason and members of the team that implemented it may still be employed. Keep the discussion based on the merits of your recommendations. Use facts, not opinions.
Don’t shut out compromises and tweaks
One way to gain wider support within the organization is to be open to adjustments to your ideas. This type of activity builds trust and consensus. Your idea will be stronger as well because it leverages more diversity of thought and it keeps everyone in the mindset of continuous improvement.
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