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Unlock the power of processes and systems by focusing on your people

Lyndsey Moorhouse

South African enterprises that want to achieve better operational performance from their investments into new business processes must focus on providing their people with the context and skills they need to make the most of the tools they have to do their jobs.

Get employees to understand their role in the business process

Once employees understand their role in the business process and the impact they have, they are far more likely to take co-responsibility for achieving the organisation’s strategic objectives and customer promises.

One of the major reasons many companies struggle to realise the ROI they want, for example, from their enterprise applications is that they rarely align their people to the companies’ processes and technology. Too much focus is on the system’s technical architecture and not enough is placed on the people who enable the system.

In many companies, workers focus solely on their own tasks with hardly any context or understanding of how their jobs link into the rest of the organisation’s chain of business processes. They remain unaware of their places in organisations’ value chains.

One hand doesn’t know what the other’s doing

The result is a misalignment between people in different departments because workers have little understanding of what other people are doing at operational level. For this picture to change, workers must be given a holistic view of how the business operates and where they fit into its business processes. Most importantly, they need to be able to determine the value they create for their customers and figure out how they execute and create that value.

Each person - from the junior accounts clerk to the shop floor manager and procurement officer - has a direct impact on organisational performance. If one person ignores a standard procedure or policy, it can impact on the productivity and efficiency of the whole organisation and ultimately, customer service.

Systems thinking plays an important role in helping people to understand their impact on other people and processes in the business and, ultimately, its profitability, efficiency and productivity. This involves deep engagement with people at every level of the organisation.

In practice, this type of thinking involves a range of mechanisms, including:

  • Analysis,
  • Problem solving,
  • Performance support tools
  • Training,
  • Coaching, and
  • E-learning.

Encourage your workers to share experiences and learn from one another’s point of view

The process involves getting people to ask themselves a range of hard questions:

  • Where do the current business processes breakdown?
  • What issues and risks do they need to manage daily?
  • What are the causes of these problems?
  • What business policies and procedures govern them and those they work with?
  • How do they need to release the blockages to smoother process flow.

By getting people to interact with others outside their own departments, they learn more about doing their jobs in a way that improves the efficiency of the organisation as a whole. When people understand why they do what they do, and how they affect the business value chain, they are more likely to be accountable for ensuring that the new processes and technologies that are being used in their business to deliver the anticipated business benefits.

Lyndsey Moorhouse is managing director of Can!Do Consulting.