Why not both?
Processes are important, they are way of measuring output, success or failure and a guide to what needs to be done.
People are important because no matter how automated a process is, if something goes wrong it is the people who will scrap it or fix it.
New employees for example, if you do not have processes how are they going to work out what and how something should be done. In most instances, particularly small business, another employee just doesn’t have a lot of time to show the newbie everything.
Processes should not be utterly rigid however, allow for change, creativity and the fact there could be a better way of doing something, it takes good people to allow for that and good people who will recognise change is required.
Anthony Stevens the CIO of KPMG Australia commented in a recent article ‘I’ve never seen someone punching the air with excitement because they’ve followed a process; it’s just not the way we are wired.” I disagree. When you follow the directions of a user guide and successfully build that new bike or piece of furniture, that is exciting. But of course, one needs to recognise the user guide is a useful process and is designed to help!
Not everyone is creative, not everyone is disciplined or experienced enough to know what is required and just go ahead and do it. Generally that takes time, knowledge and learning from mistakes. Learning from mistakes can lead to putting a process in place which can ease the pain for others who follow
When putting a process in place, it should not be just for the sake of doing it, it should be well thought out, meet a genuine need and be developed through consultation and tested by real people in a real situation. This ensures buy-in for that process, that it is workable and ensures a successful outcome.
All too often when something goes wrong, it is the person not the process that gets the blame but then that’s easier isn’t it? If the process is at fault that means someone needs to assess why and how it went wrong and that could mean change and change can be so hard to manage. If you have the right people however and good management, change can be so beneficial.
Dr John A. Kline, a clinical psychologist proposes seven ways to effectively manage people and processes—
- Demonstrate a desire to serve
- Eliminate process interference factors
- Continually improve the process
- Know your people
- Communicate effectively
- Listen to understand
- Be an encourager
The final two are critical. Listen to understand is a real skill and means you are really tuned in to what is being said, absorbing the meaning and then asking questions to ensure your understanding. Being an encourager makes people feel they matter, they have something to contribute, that their opinion is important, it definitely ensures buy-in and that the process will be used.
Kline describes process interference factors as anything which prevents the performance or completion of a task, factors such as time, tools and policies. Make sure there is enough time, the right tools and effective policies for the task to be successful. If one or other factor is not in place, a manager needs to resolve the issue – add more staff, find the right tool or change the policy.
So we get back to people. Let’s not forget it is people who will design, implement and utilise the process, so there is “no chicken or egg” argument here. Without people there will not be process. Where there are the right processes and the right people, there is harmony and success.