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  • Mark Shaw

Rigid Processes and Work Friction

Aaron McEwan from Gartner gave a great presentation at a recent conference on how the current rigid processes and practices in our workplaces are a significant impediment to improving business outcomes, creating meaningful work for individuals, successful introducing change and reducing business costs.

His results were based on a global survey of over 5,000 respondents.

This research adds to the body of evidence accumulated over many years that highlights how our approach to controlling work if often more of an impediment than a benefit. While this may seem counter-intuitive, the evidence is building:

· Managers spend 10% of their paid time on performance management processes yet report zero benefit.

· 2% of employees cause 98% of the problems, yet rigid policies and processes impact 100% of the workforce.

· 6-8 friction points (ridged processes) doubles the rate of employee turnover.

· Removing rigid processes leads to a 12% increase in responsiveness, productivity and business outcomes.

· 90% of Performance Improvement Plans lead to termination rather than improved performance.

Policy and processes are essential to maintaining governance and quality control. The trouble is that when such policies and processes become too rigid, bureaucratic and/or applied on a one-shoe-fits-all basis, productivity suffers and work output falls.

While there are multiple reasons why rigid policies and processes exist, the one I see that causes the most problems is when Specialist Practitioners impose their processes on others. In my experience, better outcomes occur when Specialist Practitioners engage with the users and guide rather than impose solutions.

Put simply, use Specialist Practitioners to set outcomes and let the people on the ground, work out the process.

This approach achieves the business goals of good governance, risk management and compliance while understanding local issues can and do impact on the best process to follow.

Take HR processes. The 2 biggest complaints I receive from managers are (1) the volume of paperwork and signatures required any time something happens with an employee (recruitment, leave, transfers, salary reviews, etc) and (2) how to successfully resolve the problems caused when an employee in not performing.

How can Specialist HR Practitioners apply the concept of “I’ll set the outcome; you help design the process that works for you”?

This is what I have strived to achieve for the past 20 years and have developed certain approaches that deliver the required outcomes using less-rigid processes. Many of my colleagues have applied similar thinking and achieved similar results.

In my view the challenge is for specialist practitioners and managers to focus on outcomes and engage the users in designing the process.

Are you up for the challenge?

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