A Process Mindset

If you want to research how to be a successful NBA franchise, you need to review the history of the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet, it is the run in the 1980s that is most intriguing to me as an organization.  With the retirement of Jerry West and Wilt Chambertain  in the 1970s, many people probably wrote them off.  Even with acquiring 7 footer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers couldn’t duplicate their past success.

However, the Lakers started building the framework for a future success. This process included selecting a young 6-9 point guard from Michigan State named Earvin “Magic” Johnson in the NBA draft.  With visionary coach Pat Riley, the franchise surrounded their 7 footer with much talent, including James Worthy, Spencer Haywood, Michael Cooper, and Jamaal Wilkes.

However, winning required All Star talent to become role players and swallow their egos so that they could win as a team, instead of individuals. This process thinking was successful. The 1980s Lakers, known as ‘Showtime” due to their electrifying performances, won five championships in a nine year span, including beating their rivals, the Celtics, several times in key games. Like the Lakers, organizations need a process for success.

If I could be a fly on the wall during student evaluations, I know my students would note that Professor Green is overly obsessed with process thinking. In fact, I even have a process for naming files for submission.  In a world that often promotes free thinking and spontaneity, some folks may believe that process thinking is too rigid to be used in an uncertain future.  On the contrary, having a process-oriented mindset will help organizations navigate the future. In this discussion, we will explore how a process mindset provides a competitive advantage during this economic crisis.

Being  process-orient is important in today hypercompetitive environment. High performance organizations in America understand that excellence does not happen by chance. Understanding one’s processes is vital. A process can be defined as “any activity or group of activities that takes an input, adds values to it, and provides to an internal or external customer.  Some of America’s shine across the globe has been taken for granted the small things in operations. 

H. James Harrington, author of Process Improvement notes, “We have taken a fine worldwide reputation and destroyed….We lost the important customer advantage, and each day our reputation worsens because our competition is improving more rapidly than we are.”  J. Davidson Frame, author of the New Project Management, further argues that organizations must evolve their processes. Frame notes, “Thus models contribute to the management of complexity by reducing the requirement for understanding a process in all of its details. They permit people to focus on the consequences of actions without having to understand their intricacies.”  Therefore, having a process mindset will have a greater impact on an organization’s effectiveness in the near future.

How can organizations more effectively utilize a process-oriented mindset in order to better compete in the future?

© 2011 by Daryl D. Green

 

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22 thoughts on “A Process Mindset

  1. I will start my blog with a timely quote I just read by Peter G.W. Keen “Without doubt processes are the source of ‘firm-specific’ special competence that makes the competitive difference.” To leverage process excellence your company must align process planning/management with strategic planning, build core processes into competitive strengths, and develop strategies to capitalize on these competitive capabilities (2). By linking strategy and process, your company can convert operational process excellence into distinct strategic advantages that yield a lasting competitive edge. Like the example from the blog the Lakers built a team around a central player; a company can do that as well around a strong process-minded plan. Business processes are designed to add value for the customer and should not include unnecessary activities (1). The outcome of a well designed business process is increased effectiveness (value for the customer) and increased efficiency (less costs for the company).

    References:
    1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_process
    2) http://www.odgroup.com/seminars/linking.asp

  2. It is almost near impossible not to utilize a process-oriented mindset in today’s business due to the competitive behavior in the market. Businesses can always figure out how to be competitive, and how to compete with other similar businesses, yet they are not managed properly. For example according to Andrew Spanyi, ” traditional functional mindset represents one of the most significant barriers to change.” From this we gather that functional mindsets have been around for longer periods of time, however they have yet to evolve to the same level of competition. Competition not only come with a set price for products, but it also appears to have a distinguished style. Again as Spanyi goes on to say “There is increasing evidence that an effective way of transforming the traditional functional mindset is to embrace enterprise business process thinking and install enterprise business process management (EBPM) practices. By doing this Spanyi goes on to explain how this will require a lot of hard and dedicated work, and will upset those who seem more traditional, but in the end the ultimate achievement is satisfaction as well as perfecting the “mental model.”

    Reference:
    Spanyi, Andrew (2010). Business Process Thinking. Retrieved from: http://www.1000ventures.com/business_guide/process_thinking.html

    • Riyam, very intriguing: “It is almost near impossible not to utilize a process-oriented mindset in today’s business due to the competitive behavior in the market.”

      Is it really?

  3. Process thinking is becoming a lost art. In today’s society “free thinking” is becoming the downfall of the next generation. Gone are the days when people “fixed” things whether it be a car, radio or a relationship. We as Americans are quickly becoming a generation of doing whatever feels right for the moment with no thought to tomorrow or the consequences that come from our actions.
    In the business world process thinking is vital to all organizations. While it is important to have processes and procedures in place there is always a gray area. By being able to apply process thinking and find a solution, employees are able to keep the customers happy and the organization moving forward in the right direction. Employees who are able to grasp and use this skill accomplish more and make the organization look better. In the Insurance world we use carriers who have proven track records for being fair and logical and whose employees can process think potential claims situations out quickly with great results for our clients.
    Organizations should promote process oriented mindsets. They should encourage employees to think through problems and situations before offering a solution. Companies should use brainstorming sessions and employee collaborations as ways to incorporate process thinking. In school, group work is a great example of process oriented thinking. Each student works through an assignment directly and is then able to come to the table with something important to offer.

    • Alexis,
      As a young social entrepreneur I would like to offer you what may be a new perspective that could provide some hope to you for the future of not only our country but our world. I would like to suggest that we, as a whole, are not just simply “a generation doing what feels right for the moment with no thought to tomorrow or the consequences that come from our actions.” Our generation is creating the strongest demand for corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmentally sustainable industries that our industries have ever seen. New businesses, NPO’s, and movements are founded and successfully creating change within industries based primarily on their ability to create and sell a product with a greater sense of social responsibility that those it competes with. We are creating positive change, and we do care about the future we are building. It may not look the way past generations may have done it but we do care. I appreciate your opinion and accept it as a challenge to communicate our efforts better. Please take hope, that even if not in the same way you may have us do it, we do care about the effects of our actions.

      Some young businesses creating good with process thinking:
      http://www.TOMSshoes.com
      http://www.RecycleBank.com
      http://www.BetterWroldBooks.com
      http://www.Patagonia.com
      http://www.WarbyParker.com

      • Nathan,

        Thanks for sharing the websites. While I agree there are some young people doing amazing things they are still the minority. The majority of young people coming up are more about themselves then focusing on making a difference. It is all about the now with little regard to the consequences. If you don’t believe me, just watch MTV.

        Alexis

  4. Companies must first be receptive to the process-oriented mindset and its advantages. Next, the mindset has to be fostered. Most importantly, the mindset has to be implemented. I have seen this used successfully by different companies I have worked for. For example, in 2006 Middlesex Savings Bank believed a significant invesment in a heavily IT laden service plan was needed to remain competitive and efficient. Without a precise understanding of how thier company did business, the new service plan would not have developed at that time.
    Likewise, the lack thereof leaves uncertainty regarding the ability to grow and prosper.

    Furthermore, two important ideas companies should invest thier time and resources in are cross-training and continued education. Understanding the big picture of a company and how it works can benefit every employee, decision-maker and the organization. Often, organizations ask thier employees for new ideas or feedback. There would likely be more educated and productive comments being generated by well-trained, in-the-know employees.

    References
    Banks Tune In, Turn On: SOA the New Mindset. (cover story). (2006). Bank Technology News, 19(10), 1-30. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

  5. To effectively utilize a process-oriented mindset, it must be driven by the end goal. Often companies are so focused on making sure processes are in place, that their purpose is forgotten.

    From my experience in automotive, where there are processes within processes, at some point they lead to diminishing returns. Maintaining documentation alone consumes valuable resources and lessens the efficiency to get even the minimal things accomplished. This leads me to the point that in order to compete, processes must be stream-lined. They must be improved continuously. No process is perfect as there is always room for improvement.

    A great example is in the book, “The Goal” by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt. It focuses on a manufacturing plant’s constraints within their processes. As the book progresses they realize that by adjusting their processes to meet their end goal, they are able rescue a dying division. They became competitive in their market again by eliminating waste and improving production time, customer service and delivery resulting in increased sales.

    In conclusion, the best processes begin with the end goal in mind.

    Reference:

    Goldratt, Eliyahu M.; Jeff Cox. 1992. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement. Great Barrington, MA.: North River Press.

  6. I really appreciate Jalene’s comments regarding the importance of focusing on the goal of the task. Often times, the best process for businesses, NPO’s, and organizations is to regularly assess how the task at hand is working to achieve the ultimate goal. The Lakers had a goal, and everything they did was constantly tweaked to better achieve that goal. Without the process it would have been nearly impossible to achieve their goal, but had they not constantly kept focused on their goal, then the process would have been meaningless. We must measure the effectiveness of our process by its effectiveness to achieve the goal.

    JFK, in working toward his ultimate goal of peace pointed out the importance of continually tweaking the process for the sake of achieving the ultimate goal most effectively. He stated, “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”

  7. We use the COBIT process model in the ORNL IT organization. This process focused approach provides management and process owners with an information technology (IT) governance model that helps in delivering value from IT. In total agreement with Jalene’s “goal focus”, the COBIT framework is structured into 34 IT processes. This process model is helpful for several reasons. First, a process by its nature is results-oriented in the way that it focuses on the final outcome while optimizing resources. Second, a process, especially its objectives, is more permanent in nature and does not risk change as often as an organizational entity. Third, the deployment of IT cannot be confined to a particular department but involves users, management, and IT specialists. In this context, the IT process remains, nevertheless, the common denominator (1). At the most fundamental level, COBIT is helping us as managers to answer these questions as we approach each IT initiative.
    • Are we doing the right things?
    • Are we doing them the right way?
    • Are we doing them well?
    • Are we adding value?
    References:
    (1) http://www.isaca.org/Knowledge-Center/cobit/Pages/FAQ.aspx

  8. As companies in today’s market shift to a more result-oriented approach, it is imperative managers employ process minded individuals. By looking at situations in a process, companies can often better identify areas of strength and weakness and work to improve them. A great example of this can be seen in the book, “The Goal”, by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt. In the book a local production facility was facing closure, leaving the plant manager with a complicated question – perform or shutdown? To succeed, the manager became a process thinker. He took a complex situation, simplified it, and was able effectively save his company.
    Reference:
    Goldratt, Eliyahu M., Jeff Cox. (2004). The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement. (Rev. ed.). Great Barrington, MA: The North River Press.

  9. Cameron Plommer’s article, “A Process Oriented Mindset can Change your Life!” is simple, yet enlightening. In the article Plommer says, “Sucking at something is never a fun thing when you know what a great result looks like.” I believe that in order to reach any goal one must have a process mindset to achieve it. It is impossible to have one without the other, although one may not recognize that the pathway traveled is, in fact, a process. Identify the process, record it, examine it, and deduce the most efficient and effective process to achieve the end goal/product in order for organizational goals to be met. It is never stagnant, but always in flux, being questioned, tested, and tweaked continuously because the global economy is driving competition to its zenith and the right process will make you a leader in this market. Abigail Tremble, V. P. of Operations of Sight Wise Solutions suggests that “Most processes are linked to other processes, therefore when you link a company’s processes together a system is created. It is a set of steps necessary to complete a task.” A process helps one to know what works and what does not work.
    1) http://genyjourney.com/201006/28/a-process-oriented-mindset
    2) http://www.asqatlanta.org/index.php?

  10. A successful organization or company will exhibit traits of a process-mindset. If a company does not know all the details of their processes and how to add value to all stakeholders, they cannot even begin to compete in the environment of today. Just as illustrated in the blog reading, “A Process Mindset,” a company should work as a team and not solely as individuals and continuously develop process thinking in accomplishing of goals. Organizations and companies are more successful when there are detailed processes in place and value added to each activity for customers and shareholders. In the article, “Bringing Outsider’s In”, the authors illustrate that by identifying improvements in the company’s own processes and systems for both internally and externally can “translate into better competitiveness” and “create value in the process that puts businesses on the path of profitable growth” (Brown, & Pope, 2011). Employees can be more productive and help to sustain an organization’s competitive advantage when there are processes in place to guide their movement toward company goals.

    Brown, G, & Pope, A. (2011). Bringing Outsider’s In: Externally based process improvements create value for customers,shareholders. Industrial Journal, 43(1). 47-51.

  11. How can organizations more effectively utilize a process-oriented mindset in order to better compete in the future?
    While reading an article from the “Seattle Times News”, I found it to be quite interesting.
    An unprecedented study that followed several thousand undergraduates through four years of college found that large numbers didn’t learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education.
    Rimer, Sarah (2011, January 18). Study: Students slog through college, but don’t gain much critical thinking. The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 19, 2011, from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2013970569_collegelearning19.html
    They are stating that students (Undergraduates) are not being trained on real world scenarios that would have them to think outside the box or so to speak “critical thinking”.
    If companies want to get ahead with their management teams and/or leadership, they need to start doing some homework on their future (prospective) employees. As well as attend local collage meetings for local businesses to give insight the colleges on how they could assist with building better work skills needed for today’s leaders in the business world.

    Reference: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2013970569_collegelearning19.html

  12. I think that a company can effectively utilize a process-oriented mindset in order to better compete in the future. When I think of process-oriented mindset, I think of TQM or total quality management.TQM is the holistic approach to long-term success that views continuous improvement in all aspects of an organization as a journey and not as a short-term destination. It aims to radically transform the organization through progressive changes in the attitudes, practices, structures, and systems. According to Taghi Jabbarifar “Total Quality Management can’t be purchased; it has to be practiced step-by-step and developed by conscious efforts. This cannot happen overnight, as it has not happened in developed countries. It does not provide instant success. It will bring up new difficulties and challenges. It is a slow process, but the benefits are long-term. Total Quality Management enables institutes to develop a self-assessment culture, so it is essential to be progressive on a sustained basis.” This style of thinking has been successful over the years.

    Jabbarifar, T.. (2009). Ignorance Of Total Quality Management In Higher Education In The 21st Century. International Journal of Management and Information Systems, 13(2), 49-57. Retrieved January 30, 2011, from ABI/INFORM Global. (Document ID: 1941199401).
    198 word count

  13. As stated by Jim Collins (2006), “good is the enemy of great, and greatness is not a function of circumstance but of choice” (p.9). With that said, I believe that the first step for organizations towards a better process-oriented mindset is choice. Thereafter, they must construct an environment where such a mindset is cultivated, nourished, and continually developed. The key here (as mentioned by Ms. Jalene Nemec) is the end goal. By using this as their metric lens, organizations can regularly assess as to whether or not their processes are rendering their objectives and functioning at optimal levels. Benchmarking – both internally and externally – should also be utilized. The contraction of the economy has pushed Business Process Management to the forefront of many industries. Its main premise is the construction, maintenance, and measurement of processes (Smart, Maddern, & Maull, 2009). To one degree or another, it can be seen in a variety of business practices.

    References
    Collins, J. (2006). Go for Greatness. Leadership Excellence, 23(6), 9.

    Smart, P. A., Maddern, H. H., & Maull, R. S. (2009). Understanding Business Process Management: Implications for Theory and Practice. British Journal of Management, 20(4), 491-507.

  14. Creativity and openness is a great thing to possess and can be beneficial but even this has a process. The example I think of are musical artist. The utilize their creativity when writing song or recording albums but even this has a process. Whether it’s a specific type of music that plays in the background, the time of day they write or even down to the pens and paper they use; it’s all about the process from a cluster of words in to a musical master piece. This process keeps everyone focused and organized from start to finish. There are advantage to process oriented mindset: flexibility and a drive to action (Thum, 2008). In regards to be flexible, the process can be creative and open to thought and ideas and then the process of laying a definite plan can be implemented. By having a process, you can theoretically lay out various plans that are possibilities rather than jumping to action and realizing there should have been a process all along.

    Thum, M. (2008, December 9). The Mindset to Getting Things Done: Think Result-Oriented. [Web log comment]. Retrieved on April 24, 2011 from http://www.awakeblogger.com/2008/12/the-mindset-to-getting-things-done-think-result-oriented/

  15. All of these changes, along with modern technology and globalization, has both increased and compressed the functions of leadership and shortened the time allowed to attain leadership skills and competencies. As an organization clearly defines its mission, paints a vision of the future, aligns strategies, states the desired values, understands the challenge, and implements the innovation processes required for growth, then and only then can it begin to form the organizational structure that will best support what the organization is passionate about accomplishing. Organizational structure is important because it provides the physical and intellectual form around which people will interact. “critical finding of the group discussion is the emphasis of technology concerns at the expense of business understanding, and ultimately, true business enablement, in most enterprise architecture practices today. Successful enterprise architecture practices in the 2010s must give equal emphasis to technology and business concerns.”

    http://blog.soa-consortium.org//soa_consortium_insights

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