In my earlier article 4 Stages of Process Competence, we visualized a perspective of a process-driven organisation. (Snapshot in the cover image).
The three core areas of the organization are its People, Strategy and Operations, with all of them coming under an all-encompassing umbrella of processes. The visualisation does not intend to create a super-structure called Processes, nor does it purport to suggest separate org structures called people, strategy or operations. What it says is that each of these are conceptual areas that have a set of processes to enable the organisation achieve its goals. This article provides an overview of these areas and how their processes drive them jointly and severally.
The People Process
This process deals with aligning the people with the objectives of the organisation. People are the most important aspect of any organisation, for the simple reason that there can’t be an organisation without any. And people in this context means those who lead the organisation to achieve its objectives. Every person is either a leader or a follower, and even both sometimes. In many process frameworks, this aspect figures in Human Resources or Human Capital process area, but it would be best placed separately.
The people process helps create a framework for the top-rung leaders to first align themselves to the vision of the organisation, and then build and scale the subsequent levels of leadership. Along with these, the process also enables leaders at all levels to watch out closely for erosion of faith at any given time, with a clear succession plan in place. The definition of an org structure aligned to its core businesses are undertaken as part of the strategy process. The HR processes are the operational aspects of the people process and will sit inside Operations with a clear link to strategy for structure.
The Strategy Process
This process looks at defining the organisation’s vision and goals and translating them into executable plans. This is like a plan for all execution plans. Strategy being the key link between its people and the operational aspects, this process and its related sub-processes deal with the definition and executing activities such as – analysing customer needs and experience, studying market and external environments, designing products and services, org design, technology landscape, data governance, and performance measures. These activities are not exhaustive, and there may be many that take up different forms and shapes depending on industry, evolution stage and objectives.
The Operations Process
All day-to-day activities (planned or ad hoc) that are performed to run the organisation come under operations. The operations processes deal with the performance of all activities that deliver the desired outcomes to internal and end customers. The internal customers and relevant processes enable the delivery of outcomes to end-customers. These processes would necessarily have to align with the people and strategy process. For example, if the org strategy is to have a functional hierarchy structure, the processes are defined based on the deliverables of all relevant departments. If there is a master vendor strategy through which all procurements are made, then the process would reflect and enable just that.
Though the end-to-end view and management of processes is definitely better, the operations process nevertheless caters to the desired strategic needs. Technology processes are a subset of the Operations process, as they provide support and enable delivery of internal / external customer outcomes. There is a need to link technology with the strategy and the leadership aspects, which is where the overlaps with the relevant circles happen. This overlap does not exist in reality though; the nearest equivalent of overlap that most technology vendors claim is a HR solution that supports onboarding, performance management, payroll and exits.
There are many process frameworks in place that help organisations to rediscover and manage their processes effectively. Unfortunately, many of them are defined from a technology perspective – that is, the processes will be used for automation using technology solutions. Most organisations do not even know all the processes that are running in their organisation, so even measuring them is impossible. Process classification frameworks such as APQC are continuously evolving to drive a better process culture in organisations, but there is still a lot of work to do in this area.