Processes vs People

At different levels, processes and people have different flexibility.

For example in cooking, the person making a Big Mac at McDonalds is expected to make the Big Mac the exact same way every time. Every McDonalds should serve the same Big Mac with the same ingredients and the same portions. In that level of cooking, the process is what matters and the people involved are simply expected to follow the process exactly. At a different level, if you go to a gourmet restaurant and order Blackened Mahi Mahi, the executive chef might have a unique way of seasoning the fish which might result in a different and wonderful taste each time. In this situation, the person becomes more important than the process. The thing to remember is that even at this level, the process DOES matter. If I order Blackened Mahi Mahi and the chef decides to deviate a bit and cooks a Sweet and Sour Chicken dish, even if it tastes wonderful he would have deviated too much from the process and this would result in an unhappy customer.

Using a bank as another example, the tellers have very specific processes to follow when dealing with each customer. On the other hand, many people in the loan department have had a lot more flexibility in determining whether a loan should be made or not. The feeling has been these people in the loan departments have more experience and are dealing with more unique situations so they must be given more freedom from the processes but when the processes are completely ignored…well just take a look at our banking industry.

You might think an inventor would have complete freedom from processes as they are forced to be creative in their thinking. However, the exact opposite is true. The successful inventor is going to follow a process to track success. Thomas Edison’s famous quote (“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that wont work”) isn’t true if he wasn’t tracking his attempts. If he wasn’t following a process to track results, he would be trying the same things over and over because he wouldn’t know what worked and what didn’t.

At all levels, we must have processes. The successful leader is the one who can figure out for each person and for each level, which processes must be followed and which are guidelines based on various levels of expertise, experience and other factors.

Have a great day!


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