Two articles I’ve read recently offer advice on how to get the most out of your process improvement efforts.  The first focuses on the well-documented benefit of focusing on processes not people.  Despite the undeniable value of constantly looking for ways to improve your processes, the general tone of the article gives the impression that the organization somehow creates processes without the input of the people who are actually doing the work.

Most employees would and could contribute to positive outcomes if given an environment to do so. It is far more productive to focus on streamlining processes and making them better rather than trying to make good employees even better within a broken system.

I believe the author envisions an approach where employees contribute to the process improvement effort but does not clearly state it in the article.  I certainly hope so because it is simply not sustainable in today’s business environment to centrally establish and maintain business processes.

This brings me to the second article.  In it, the author advocates an approach where employees initiate process changes.  He presents this as a contrast to a technology first, process second, people last approach where employees are “subjected to retraining, and they have to radically alter their routines, often in ways that they don’t think will work as well.”

In an approach that focuses on employee-initiated change, technology acquisitions would only come after the organization adopted new processes and sought a technology solution that would best help employee productivity and innovation.  By empowering “front line” employees to establish, document, and maintain business processes it is more likely that the acquisition will be successful.  The net result is cost savings (because the correct solution was purchased) and greater productivity (because the solution is compatible with the work environment).

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