Whether for scaling, gaining efficiencies or improving quality, process seems to be a hot topic amongst small businesses. It figures. Solving problems and generating value are universally held as good.
Calling for processes, and needing processes are two different things, though. And the difference is a big one.
A Risk to What?
When implementing a risk management program a few years back, I recall learning a key fundamental. A risk to what? is a great gauge to understand values and core strategy. It isn’t a risk unless what is at risk is of value.
The Same Goes for Processes
A business problem to what? is a great gauge to understand if a problem is born of the core strategy. Strategy undergirds everything the business does and aims to do. As no strategy is perfect, it is inevitable that challenges will arise.
What’s the Problem?
Logically, a problem must be identified before it can be solved. Not even on TV does the investigator solve a mystery before there is a mystery. (Graphic below: retrieved from https://imgur.com/gallery/M2mjU)
In real life, too many of us apply process before we understand what is the problem.
Processes Are Specific Activities, and Are Not Intended to Fix
Fixing something implies something was broken. The way to fix errant problems is realignment to the core strategy. That is a different problem altogether. Fixes may resemble processes, but they are not.
Process Development Has Purpose
Solving business problems aligned to the business’s core strategy, mission and values is the job of process development. Quite simply, that is to generate a process.
Think of developing a marketing campaign intended to generate revenue versus cleaning up the supply closet. One is aligned with the business’s goals; the other requires a fix born of neglect – and the activity associated with fixing is a burden on the business, not a benefit born of strategy. Somebody’s gotta do it… should never be a strategic outburst. On the other hand, there is dignity in developing and fulfilling processes.
Communication Is the Key
Required is awareness of the business’s identity – including the strategy(ies) by which the organization aims to be successful. It is up to leadership to not only convey that strategy(ies), but comprehend it themselves. One example of the latter is setting out to solve problems that take the entire organization into account. How can we care for one another so we can all do a great job? Keep a clean supply closet may be a worthwhile strategic artifact.
Without organization-wide awareness of strategy, business problems may get lost in efforts to fix activities gone awry.
Strategy Is Fundamental To Process Development
It’s easy to go straight from strategy to process. The thinking goes that if we had a process, then we would attain our goal. More thought must go into the strategy and its implications. And don’t forget. Communicating the strategy so that business problems can be purposefully identified is important to addressing them appropriately; else, you may just be cleaning up a mess and not helping your business.