Clearing and cleaning organizational processes

Process waste management

Recently I came across an article on David Allen’s GTD Connect site. In essence, what David was talking about was the need to perform regular waste management tasks on personal processes. Quite often a process that served a specific purpose in a specific context no longer serves that purpose or no longer represents the best possible way to execute a certain task. Many reasons can contribute, such as a context having changed or disappeared. In other cases, the grounds for the task have disappeared.
We have a tendency, as people, to remain hooked on these “traditions”; long after their useful life has passed. And what is relevant in personal processes is in this case as relevant or even more so for organizational processes.

How processes are born

Most processes start as the result of projects which were initiated to address one or more specific issues. As a result of the project, a set of recommendations was issued, among which the suggestion to develop a certain work method to address part or the whole of the issue set. In order to execute the work method, you need resources, i.e. people and money, engaged for a longer term.

Self-sustaining structures

These structures (an organizational structure with people, processes and systems) are developed to solve an issue. However, structures with people in a hierarchical structure tend to try to maintain their existence. It gets worse; these structures will try to extend their roles and responsibilities. Eventually, they become too heavy and start clogging the system.
What’s so bad about this is that rather than eliminating the structures at the end of their useful life, the issue is avoided and structures are repurposed. This results in structures being used for purposes they were not designed for. Thus, efficiency, effectiveness and economy are not assured.

Introducing sun-set structures

A possible way to avoid this is to establish structures with a built-in sunset clause. Once a certain period is over or a specific condition is no longer met, the structure is to be dissolved in order to make place for new structures which are designed for the task. Of course, the people involved in those structures, either directly (employees) or indirectly (providers of services to the structure) will be resistant to change. They feel secure where they are, and they will want to remain where they are. Few people go out actively looking for a exposed position.
However, this shows the issue. Currently, people identify with their position, not with their role or contribution. In order to allow people to move away from their association with structures as they relate to their position, we need to focus on the value their contribution brings, rather than their position.

Using the extended Gruber-Mann theorem

As stated in a prior blog post, we can use the extended Gruber-Mann theorem to assess contribution. By measuring topical relevance (“obsession”), availability of proper communication channels, both formally and informally (“voice&”) and the intrinsic motivation (“purpose”) of employees, and by feeding that with well focused training and freedom to exercise their brains in the context of their work but outside of the daily grind, I am sure we can build functional organizations where position is less relevant than topic, voice and purpose. Where contribution becomes very relevant.

This is a curation of a prior post on Risk & Reengineering