What is better – Being People Centric or Being Process Driven?

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One of the decisions that every business needs to make, in order to continue to grow is to put in place processes that can provide enough stability,  predictability and consistency of experience. Without the right processes, the growth is chaotic and can strangle the business itself.

On the other side, there is this whole conversation about how it is important to be people centric in order to do well. People do business with other people and not with processes or bots. So, it is important to treat people (employees, customers and partners) well and thereby create the foundation for them to continue to work with/for you, to grow the business.

Most conversations on this topic tend to be one-sided – people either advocate for being process driven or being people centric as though they are both mutually exclusive. However, in my experience that need not be true.

A business could be both people centric and process driven. This shift in thinking can happen in the following situations:

1) We realise that our processes are not constant and fixed. They need to continuously evolve and grow along with the business.  And their evolution is dependent on the people who follow them. When people find that the process no longer serves the purpose that it was supposed to serve, it is time to look at a better process.

2) Employees, customers and partners are invited and even encouraged to find a better process that could serve them and their needs better than the current process. This kind of culture puts emphasis on people and their needs but also realises that they need processes to keep things from becoming chaotic.

3) There is a process in place to change the process or about how to deal with exceptions. Processes are put in place so that we can build in compliance and stability. Irrespective of all the detailing in creating the processes, there will always be times when we need exceptions. As long as there is a clearly defined process to handle these exceptions, and everyone knows about this, we are good. The exception handling process could be as simple as doing what the employee in that circumstance thinks is the right thing and then letting the process owner or the manager know about the situation, their action and the thinking behind their action. It could be also about putting together a team to re-look at the entire process. What is important is that there is a process that everyone knows about.

4) Everyone knows and is expected to follow the process as the norm as they are there for a reason. Everyone also understands the reason for the process to be put in place, thereby if they think are aware of when the process doesn’t serve that need, they can look at exception handling.

Most businesses and large organisations tend to look at their process once and once decided never look at it again for a long time. This is how they become fragile, slow and bureaucratic.

It is important to think of processes as living, breathing entities that need to be looked at and taken care of, just like any other living, breathing creature. That way, they are fresh, malleable and are subservient to our need rather than cripple us. This is how we remain agile and are able to change with the times.

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