Why Don't Organizations Pay Attention to Processes? by Karen Martin


Clarity First is the new book by Karen Martin. She addresses the pitfalls that leaders make in organizations in making change and bringing clarity to the company and teams. Here is a guest post from her new book. If you want clarity within your organization then pick up Karen’s book to get started down the right path.

Effective processes create such a dramatic boon, and broken processes such a significant bane, that I have long reflected on why process design and management as a discipline doesn’t get more attention. Over time I have discovered myriad reasons, subreasons, and sub-subreasons why, which together come down to a hard reality: most leaders lack foundational skills in process design and management, and don’t view them as institutionally important enough to learn. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. There are three reasons why.

First, many processes are invisible. They happen behind the scenes or beneath the visible aspects of the business. Most of them function well enough that problems are like a pin leak in a larger pipe. The loss immediately affects those close to the leak, but is less visible at the end of the line. People acclimate to that kind of slow leak.

The second reason why leaders and the organizations they work for have not invested more in having clear, high-functioning processes is lack of experience. Building proficiency in any endeavor—whether golf, guitar, or gastroenterology—requires practice, experience, and knowing what good looks like. Yet gaining that experience can be challenging because the models are few and far between. Process design and management are not part of the core business curriculum offered at most universities and graduate programs. When young professionals graduate into the workforce, the organizations they work for likely aren’t process-centric enough to fill in those education gaps. Fast forward 10, 20, 30 years and those young professionals have become leaders who have never thought much about processes and don’t know what well-designed and well-managed processes look like, let alone how to create them.

Career-long lack of exposure metastasizes quickly to produce the third reason why organizations pay less attention to processes than they need to for clarity: they have a specialist mentality. Leaders’ lack of direct experience has led them to believe that process design and management must be complex and difficult, and thus requires a specialist to do well.

Karen Martin, president of the global consulting firm TKMG, Inc., is a leading authority on business performance and Lean management. Her latest book, Clarity First, is her most provocative to date and diagnoses the ubiquitous business management and leadership problem―the lack of clarity―and outlines specific actions to dramatically improve organizational performance.