It's Not Their Fault - People vs. Processes

Posted by Scott Czysz on Nov 16, 2017 2:48:51 PM

Written by Scott Czysz, IMEC Technical Specialist

Over the last couple months, I've observed a recurring theme with a few of the companies I am working with: a frustration with "them" (co-workers, factory workers, etc.) not doing what they are supposed to be doing.  As I dig deeper, I have found the problem lies within:

  • Poorly designed (or never designed) processes,
  • Poor or no process documentation,
  • Poor or no training for the people that are doing the process every day, and, not surprisingly,
  • Poor results.

This reminded me of the following:

“We get brilliant results from average people managing brilliant processes – while our competitors get average or worse results from brilliant people managing broken processes
~ Fujio Cho, Honorary Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation

Process-focus-400px-1.jpgIt seems that many companies focus - maybe not as an intentional business decision, but just because that's what they've always done - on people: long hours, tribal knowledge, "super heroes" saving the day.  If something goes right some person gets rewarded.  If something goes wrong, some person gets fired.  Don't get me wrong, people are important, people are key, heck, some of my best friends are people.  But, if the success of a company relies 100% on its people, that company is one day going to be in trouble.

In addition to good people, what a company needs is good processes.  So, what I have been preaching lately is the importance of a process focus, or "how to make changes that will last". 

Processes in a company should be:

  1. Designed. To accomplish their intended outcome (not just "because we've always done it that way").
  2. Functioning. The processes need to accomplish their intended outcome predictably, repeatably.
  3. Documented. Maybe in multiple languages, and ideally as visual and easy to understand as possible.
  4. Understood. Once the processes are designed, functioning, and documented, the users of the process must be trained.
  5. Followed. Leader Standard Work is a great tool to help ensure and enforce that processes are being followed.
  6. Measured. Ideally this is visual and in real time.
  7. Improved. Getting this far takes work, but once a process is at this stage, it's time to look at how to improve it.

The Bottom Line: Leaders shouldn't complain about "them" not doing what they are supposed to be doing if those same leaders didn't do at least steps 1 through 5 above.

Scott Czysz

Written by Scott Czysz

Topics: lean, operations, continuous improvement, process efficiency

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