Is successful change management really blocked by process management?
I have learned over the years of my prior career that change management is not really about change in many organisations covering the medium to large variety. Particularly in plcs, it’s more about trying to ensure the bull (‘whom we affectionately know as change’) in the process management china shop does not kick over priceless process management artefacts by just been itself! As a plc, it’s a tricky proposition managing change and not been fined for your troubles!
So to that end, change finds itself in an unfriendly environment but still refuses to leave! Change does not need an invite to our corporate picnic but seems to there nevertheless pinching us in uncomfortable ways about how it can knock higher priorities off our list faster then you can say ‘uncool bro!!’…. We often respond by giving change the ugly corner table in the room; whilst process management supports immediate profitability and continuing revenue generation in a manner that does not get the company fined!
Well, this is often true but it overlooks flexibility as a corporate survival requirement. How extantly we proceduralise process management directly reflects on how restrictive it can be especially in the face of change. If its too rigid, we can find change getting into our face at the corporate party with ‘love the BBQ bro… pity about getting caught napping on the job… oh dude.. nearly forgot… continue to be so rigid in your company culture, practices and process design, you can soon say hello to the Blockbuster team for me??… ok bro??… right on!!’ So if change has taught us anything through this tough love approach; its that it stops for nobody and can herald as many opportunities as it does threats for those who are paying attention! Process design needs flexibility sewn into it alongside value creation and auditability in order to cope with this reality!
This conundrum of solid plc audit practices and structures impeding change is not new. Its recognised by many who have responded in many different ways depending on their use case. Look at Hubspot, the tech company who specialise in online sales, business development and digital marketing. They followed the wall street gravy train in their floatation as a plc. However, they soon released that to be audit compliant as a plc and meet the needs of investors; whose interests often presented threats to their business model, something had to be done! So, knowing that ‘uncool bro!’ would not cut it, they withdrew from the markets and became a limited company once again! I was like ‘Wooo dude… you guys know your stuff!’ when I looked them over… They apparently realised that good process management was not all documentation and proof of audibility. They realised good process management was a friend of change who shared a table with process management at the corporate picnic! They had figured out that the people centric way they did business was at odds with the demands imposed by the financial markets and thus withdrew from it. What struck me most about this was the fact that their corporate values and culture were under threat, which underpins everything their people do to make their business a success. This seems to have spirited them into action. Their views on process management are seemingly based on value creation in a reasonably controlled manner allowing margins of error by humans based on trust that did not strategically impact their business bottom line nor damage their brand. You could say, they embraced the fact that controlled chaos in their process management design gives rise to new business opportunities through internal innovation! The thought put into their corporate values underpins their approach based on the following fact.
Effective process management must create value in a controlled manner, which recognises the internal business environment, culture and people in balance with the external market place and operating environment.
If process management is to help and not hinder profitable change, the need for speed in delivering numbers must become balanced against the longer term view. This includes the provision of the operating space needed to create and innovate along with the returns that such space will ultimately deliver. Its cheaper and more sustainable then M&A and whilst M&A still has a place at the corporate picnic, process management can now bong beers with change knowing they are no longer corporate enemies. The balance between audibility, process control and overhead costs can now be worked out after value creation has been established in the original process design! Hubspot are not alone in this forward thinking with regards to embracing change in their process management practices. If done right, the vast majority of business use cases can also join them as a flexible member of the business community with an innovative success story or two to tell!