Shift Perspective 90 Degrees

Shift Perspective 90o

Managing in a process-centered organization calls for a new mindset. We’re dealing with work from a different slant. It’s no longer simply a vertical, top-down, task specific exercise. Management now involves broad spectrum responsibility for facilitating the flow of work from left to right. The old north to south style of management is too one-dimensional. Too localized. A process focus means our perspective must swing around such that we’re mainly thinking west to east...all the way across the company.

Now you’re managing sideways. And it’s a very different drill.

Just as a 90o shift in wind direction announces the arrival of a new weather pattern, this quarter-circle turn on the management dial tells us we’re changing the way we deal with work. Fundamentally. When we make the simple shift in focus from tasks to processes, it profoundly affects our perspective on how we do business. The different departments or functions stop operating as silos. We quit thinking of individual tasks in a singular and disconnected manner. Instead, we consider the overall collection of tasks-that is, the process-that’s involved in producing an end result...

Overview of the Three Levels of Performance


Nineteenth-century environmentalist John Muir found that each component of the ecosystem is in some way connected to all other components. The brouhaha over the snail darter, which ultimately halted construction on the Clinch River breeder reactor, was not just about a tiny fish that affects very few of us; it was about tampering with a small tile in the environmental mosaic. Each tile that is removed or changed alters, if only in a minute way, the balance of the picture.

Similarly, we have found that everything in an organization’s internal and external “ecosystem” (customers, products and services, reward systems, technology, organization structure, and so on) is connected. To improve organization and individual performance, we need to understand these connections. The current mosaic may not present a very pretty picture, but it is a picture. The picture can be changed or enhanced only through a holistic approach that recognizes the interdependence of the Nine Performance Variables ... 

The Organization Level of Performance


A wealthy owner of a baseball franchise will often recruit the most highly skilled (and highly priced) talent and wonder why his or her team doesn’t win the World Series. A championship team often pales in position-to-position matchups; it wins because somehow the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The distinction is usually that the winning team as a whole, not just each individual player and function (hitting, pitching, defense), is being managed.

Similarly, an organization can be greater than the sum of its parts only if the whole organization is managed. An organization may have people with outstanding experiential and academic credentials. Its functions, such as marketing, production, and research, may look good when benchmarked against those departments in other organizations. However, its results may be less than stellar because its executives manage functions and people without placing them in a larger organizational context. This practice is a prescription for suboptimization, a situation in which the whole equals less than the sum of its parts. Our first step in managing organization performance ...

The Process Level of Performance


We have found the Process Level to be the least understood and least managed level of performance. Processes are rolling along (or, frequently, stumbling along) in organizations, whether we attend to them or not. We have two choices—we can ignore processes and hope that they do what we wish, or we can understand and manage them. We have proposed that the only way to truly understand the way work gets done is to view an organization horizontally (as a system) rather than vertically (as a hierarchy of functions). When you view an organization horizontally, you see business processes.

While the Organization Level provides a perspective, sets a direction, and points to areas of threat and opportunity, our experience strongly suggests that the Process Level is where the most substantive change usually needs to take place. A clear strategy and logical reporting relationships (Organization Level) and skilled, reinforced people (Job/Performer Level) cannot compensate for flawed business and management processes. An organization is only as effective as its processes ...

Job level performance

The Job/Performer Level of Performance


The Job/Performer Level is so named because it looks at jobs at all levels and at the people who serve in those jobs. At this level, we take the same systems view that we take at the Organization and Process Levels. We believe that performance can be improved only if jobs and people are examined in an overall performance context. The need for a systems perspective is best illustrated by an analysis of managers’ typical responses to people problems. Aside from the frequent response of ignoring the problem, the actions we see most often are:  train, transfer, threaten, discipline, or replace them. The common theme through all of these responses is them. Each action assumes that “them” is what’s broken, and therefore “them” is what needs to be fixed. 

Assuming that defective people are at the root of all performance problems is as illogical as assuming that a bad battery is at the root of all automobile malfunctions. While the battery may be at fault, a good mechanic realizes that it is part of an engine system. Even if the battery is performing inadequately, it may be because of another component; the root cause may lie elsewhere ...