Overview of Rummler-Brache Concepts

Your Organization's Future Lies In Its Processes

Your Organization's Future Lies In Its Processes

Tomorrow’s results will be determined largely by today’s approach. By the way we tackle our work.

Sure, our strategy must be solid. Our people must be capable of performing. But that won’t make us competitive if our processes are clumsy. To succeed in this demanding and chaotically changing marketplace, we have to accelerate our output. Slash costs. Bring higher quality and better value to our customers. But how do we achieve this competitive triple play of “faster-better-cheaper”?

The most promise will be found in process improvement.

If we scan the competitive landscape, we’ll see old competitors who relentlessly keep improving. We’ll be shocked at the new competition springing up from innovative outsiders who come from other fields. And we’ll note that customers keep upping the ante by always expecting more.

So let’s take a hard look at how we do things around here. Shall we stick with the same old habits and techniques? Or do we decide it’s time to start doing things differently?

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...

Piecemeal Changes by Geary Rummler Alan Brache

Making Only Piecemeal Changes Can Be Dangerous

All too often, companies respond to external pressure with spasmodic campaigns such as:

  • Developing and communicating a business vision and/ or strategy
  • Embarking on culture-transformation programs
  • Training executives in “leadership” (as opposed to “management,” which is now widely seen as the domain of uninspiring, dime-a-dozen technocrats)
  • Conducting organization-wide quality awareness and customer awareness campaign

If management’s objective is to symbolize to employees, customers, shareholders, and the business press that it recognizes the challenge and is doing something about it, then any of these actions will do the job. If, however, managers wish to address needs comprehensively and on a sustained basis, they cannot pursue the quick fixes and superficial responses that have become the trademark of improvement efforts.

Noble intentions drive each of the actions listed here, and each of them can address a piece of the problem or opportunity. Therein, however, lies our concern. Managing to meet the challenge of change—demanding, unforgiving customers, and ubiquitous, unmerciful competitors—is a complex and complicated task. Piecemeal approaches, that are assumed to be the answer are as dangerous as no response at all. These efforts can absorb vast resources as they lull an organization into thinking ...

The Powerful Alternative to the Way Organizations are Typically Managed

Managers have found out that creating high-performance teams doesn’t necessarily produce a growth spurt. They’ve discovered that the hot pursuit of Six Sigma or Lean doesn’t inevitably result in excellent processes. They’ve seen that redesigned processes don’t make much difference when they aren’t hardwired to strategy and implemented through redesigned jobs.

In spite of the money, commitment, and effort that have gone into growth initiatives, the results have been generally disappointing. As sweeping as these growth strategies appear to be, they aren’t broad or deep enough...

The True Picture of an Organization

The True Picture of an Organization

Most change efforts produce disappointing results and unintended consequences because they stem from a fundamentally flawed view of the organization. Traditional thinking is reflected in the typical organization chart, which graphically describes the functions of the business and the vertical reporting relationships.

What’s wrong with that picture? It doesn’t show the customers how the products are developed, produced, or delivered. It doesn’t provide any sense of the work flow and tells nothing of what the business does, who it does it for, or how it is done ...

"Fix" The System Rather Than The People

Let’s talk about management ROI—the return on investment you can expect from your management efforts.

What offers the best payoff? Experience proves that you’ll enjoy the biggest benefits when you focus on system changes, rather than trying to improve the various people who work for you.

Nobody’s arguing here against training. People definitely need coaching and development to make sure their skills measure up. The point we’re making is about leverage. About playing the odds. About investing management time and energy for maximum return ...

Don't Expect Employees To Love A New Process Just Because It Is Better Than The Old One

Process re-designers often bank on the idea that everybody will buy into proposed changes just because they make good economic sense. But that rarely happens. People don’t automatically fall in love with a nice process, even if it’s brilliantly designed.

That’s understandable. Just consider what all we’re asking people to do here. Comfortable and familiar ways of doing business must be ditched. Working relationships will get reshaped. The boundaries between departments need to come down. Power and authority among different functions and across levels will be redistributed. People face new performance requirements that call for new skills, different work habits, and a shift in mindset ...


6 Laws Geary Rummler

Six Fundamental Laws of Organizational Systems

By Geary Rummler and Alan Brache

  1. Understanding performance requires documenting the inputs, processes, outputs, and customers that constitute a business. It is interesting to describe an organization as a culture, a set of power dynamics, or a personality. However, it is essential at some point to describe what it does and how it does it.
  2. Organization systems adapt or die. The success of the survivors depends on the effectiveness and speed with which they adapt to changes in the external environment (customers’ needs, competitors’ actions, economic fluctuations) and in their internal operations (rising costs, inefficiencies, product development opportunities). 
  3. When one component of an organization system optimizes, the organization often suboptimizes...
The Process Owner

The Process Owner

To ensure that someone with clout is looking at and taking action to improve the performance of an entire cross-functional process, many organizations are appointing an individual as the Process Owner of each core process. A Process Owner plays several or all of these roles:

  • Monitors process performance and reports periodically to senior management about how well the process is meeting customer requirements and internal goals, as well as about any indications that the process is being suboptimized ...

How Jobs are Different in Process-Focused Organizations

How Jobs are Different in Process-Focused Organizations

Processes work best when they’re simple. You want to keep them lean, elegant, and efficient. How do you go about this streamlining? You get the complexity out of the process and move it into people’s jobs. 

This means the scope of people’s work has to change.They need to assume responsibility for a broader range of activities. Instead of being focused on one or two single tasks, their jobs should be designed around outcomes. Toward overall end results. They must migrate from specialized labor to more general, wide-spectrum duties. This requires an expanded set of competencies. It calls for know-how in multiple disciplines. It may be that the individual needs to understand and be able to perform all the steps in a given process.

As their jobs become bigger and more complex, people need a fuller understanding of their own process and of the organization at large. They need to be able to see the big picture . . . how the system works . . . how all the activities in their process fit together and interconnect with other processes to ultimately serve the customer...

Managing Performance is More than Managing People

Managing People is More than Managing People

 Successful managers tend to be guided by a set of fundamental truths about human performance: 

  • The actions that managers take to improve productivity should also improve the quality of work life. 
  • People issues in an organizational setting can be analyzed systematically if managers have a process for this analysis. 
  • Managing performance is more than managing performers. Employees are one component in a performance system. Factors in the environment around people have as much infl uence on performance as the inner workings of the people.
  • Many valuable productivity improvement actions are available to managers. Training, employee participation, job enrichment, management by objectives, reorganization, and positive reinforcement are all viable solutions to specific needs. The only way to select one of these alternatives or the myriad of other available interventions is to diagnose the situation first...


To be Customer-Focused, We Have to be Process-Focused

Since the people we serve and sell to are truly the ones in charge, a customer orientation should drive all of the organization’s activities. We need to start with the customers’ wishes, with what they want from us, with what they consider value. 

It’s not our opinion that counts. As the supplier, our perspective on what represents value, quality, or worthwhile work may be quite different from the customers’ thinking. But if we’re smart, and if we take a process-centered approach, we’ll start by determining what customers really want from us.  Then we’ll work backward from there.

A process is a series of related steps or tasks that together create value for the customer. The most important word here is “customer.” A process perspective on a business is the customer’s perspective. That’s because processes are the means by which an organization produces its products and services. And the only things that customers really care about are these outputs. Our results. Customers are totally uninterested in our organization chart, strategic plan, personnel policies, or such. The important thing to them is the value we deliver. So if we’re going to be customer-focused, we have to be process-focused ...

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 Questions that Need to be Answered


Before performance at any level can be managed, the expectations for that performance need to be clearly established and communicated. This need is particularly strong at the Organization Level. If we have not clearly defined the business we are in, we certainly cannot effectively design and manage the Organization Level of Performance or establish goals, structure, and management practices at the Process and Job/Performer Levels. Without the guiding hand of a clear strategy, we cannot be sure that we are allocating our resources appropriately, managing our critical business processes, and rewarding the right job performance.

To slightly alter the old Chinese proverb, “If we don’t know where we are going, any processes and jobs will get us there.” We will not add to the vast number of models, theories, and methodologies for strategic planning. Our objective is to identify those questions that need to be answered if an organization’s strategy is going to effectively guide the Three Levels of Performance ... 

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 ...

The Process Level of 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 ...

Organization Level of Performance

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 ...

Diagnose First. Prescribe Second.

By Geary Rummler and Alan Brache

The pharmaceutical industry has developed a host of effective medicines. Penicillin, for example, is a drug of demonstrated effectiveness. However, it probably won’t help a cataract. There’s no evidence that cortisone will do anything for a fever. Aspirin has been called a wonder drug, but it is harmful to someone suffering from an ulcer. Unfortunately, every effective medicine addresses only a limited number of ailments. Professional diagnosticians, doctors, are paid to match medications with patients’ illnesses.

Similarly, there are lots of approved performance improvement “medicines” out there. Training is one form of medication. Reorganization is another. A new information system is another. An incentive compensation plan is yet another. The question is, who are the “doctors” being paid to match these and other medications with our organizations’ illnesses?

Process Management in a Functional Organization

Organizing Around Process Is Not Practical

A process organization structure merely creates a different kind of white space . . . between processes. Furthermore, it may require additional people, obstruct sharing of learning and resources, and erect career path barriers. In most process-based organizations, functions remain as “centers of excellence.”

How does an organization establish effective vertical and horizontal structures? In our experience, the key is measurement. Establishing customer-focused, process-driven measures is the first step. In a process-driven environment, each functional manager is still responsible for achieving results, allocating resources, and developing policies and procedures.

Line managers have as much authority as in any traditional organization. There is no tug-of-war between two bosses, as in many matrix-managed organizations.