During my last meeting with the CEO of one of the rapidly growing tech companies in the country, I spent around one and half hours discussing critical HR issues of this emergent company. We touched upon the repetitive and many times redundant HR problems, employee expectations, and more importantly, how some companies get stuck between the two extremes of “process” and “result”. We spent a lot of time deliberating about the last one—how companies find themselves caught in the middle trying to choose between the two, which inspired me to write this piece.
With increasing human resources, process management becomes an integral part of overall strategic priorities. A company’s growth is tied to how effectively it creates a link between its strategy and organizational objectives. The company in question was slowly feeling the need to align its processes with its strategic vision. It was exploring the possibilities of linking strategy with process and creating operational process excellence. But there was a fear that this alignment might come at the cost of freedom that the organization had given to its staff and the corresponding trust that it has received in return.
When there was a possibility that the organization may become more process focused, several questions emerged. Does being more focused on process drive talents out of the organization? Will curtailed freedom and more process focused approach simply kill creativity and make the organization more bureaucratic? They trust their staff to make prudent decisions, but they also have new standards to comply with if they want to focus more on the process. Is there a need for one document to be signed by three people? Is it necessary to seek approval for every purchase of over one thousand rupees?
Is there a need to seek the management’s consent for every small activity proposed? As the organization becomes more process focused, there is a high probability that it will spend a lot of time managing a lot of paper work for activities that could have been settled over a 30 second conversation. End-to-end documentation, strict management of organizational processes, paper driven decisions rather those based on quality, timeliness, and cost—is all this what an organization strives for, in order to be called a process focused company?
This is what the organization wanted to avoid, but this is exactly what it found itself doing during its last effort to become more process oriented. The management, on the other hand, believed that results are more important than processes, that they needed to be result oriented and not process oriented, for which they needed to build a company based on strong values and not necessarily on processes. They wanted to go back to allowing staff limitless flexibility in terms of working hours, taking critical decisions in a room within a second, and focusing on results.
No doubt, the success of any organization depends on its ability to produce measurable results. Results-driven approaches evade extensive planning and aim at quick, realistic, and measurable gains. In this approach, one doesn’t end up investing months and years in a process to reach the desired goal; instead, actions are taken, leading directly to enhanced results. A results-oriented approach sounds ideal—no work schedule, unlimited flexibility, no boring and lengthy meetings, you are allowed to work when and where you want, as long as the results are in place.
The desire to achieve results could be so great that it may end up ignoring the right processes in pursuit of success.
But I believe there is another side to a results oriented approach where the process factor comes in, and which we cannot ignore. Processes and mechanisms help facilitate the process of reaching results and achieving goals. Operational efficiency and excellence are needed if results are to be achieved, but with robust processes in place. The desire to achieve results could be so great for a results-driven organization that it may end up taking any approach and ignoring the right processes in pursuit of success. Processes ensure checks and balances. All results driven organizations have a clearly defined strategy aligned to business goals, but many times the lack of processes in there could pose a serious risk of tasks falling through the cracks.
Organizations should continue to be results driven, but at the same time endeavor not to avoid the core process of doing business, no matter how results based they are. Processes can contribute significantly to quality. The companies that have the right processes have achieved higher efficiency, lower operating costs, and maximized utilization of existing resources, even when they continue to be results driven. A process driven organization can create operational excellence and will perpetually seek improvements in processes. A proper process should be followed for every critical aspect of business. As long as the processes are logical and have a streamlined path for getting things done, goals will be effectively and efficiently achieved. Processes and results are inseparable for organizational success. Any result is the outcome of doing the right processes well.
The author is a management professional