We obviously need both processes AND people in a successful business activity (don’t we?). But which is more trustworthy?
Wow, what a great question, if I do say so myself.
Processes are simply and totally repeatable; they are the diagram for a series of successful operations that a business needs to succeed, and when done correctly, act as a blueprint for those operations. In other words, they are consistent, repeatable, and known for their prior success. Good stuff, these processes. They tell us what to do, how to do it, and when it must occur. Seems like nirvana to me, eh?
Hmmm, maybe not…
People, of course, are the fly in the ointment.
When processes break down, people are generally at the core. When specific actions begin to work against the system instead of in support, we can again usually point to people as the difficulty. The people element in a process is the least consistent, the least replicable.
In other words, people are nowhere as “clean,” from a business activity view, as are credible, substantiated, proven processes. They are free-thinking, changing, ad-hoc, seat-of-the-pants animals. Having said that (I love that phrase)…
Processes are woefully inadequate in their contingency and coverage. You cannot possibly have a sound, working, proven process for every conceivable business operation, activity, or event. And processes, of course, cannot think, use judgment, or learn from mistakes (not that some people always do either).
In other words, the process is the best start, but ultimate completion — and success — rests on people.
So, my choice is people… but not without reservations.
Deming said that the system (processes) causes up to 90% of all errors in a business. I’m not sure that, outside a discrete manufacturing process, that always holds true as a specific number, but as a concept, it seems quite accurate.
The rub of the system is that, the processes we hold so dear are created and authored by people, who have the same limitations inherent in the processes they are creating.
In other words, we use an error-laden ‘process’ (people), to create our ‘processes.’
I’ve got a nifty idea, then… How about we use people to create sound, meaningful processes that successfully take advantage of the available strengths of our – you guessed it – people??
There’s some rocket surgery for you.