Which camp are you in? Does your business need rules and processes or does it rely on what people bring to the table? Can it be both?
It’s not an easy answer to agree upon and one that is often debated in the boardroom. As with all things, there are pros and cons to both ways of thinking. And as with most business debates there is no right and wrong, no black and white. It is something that we seem to struggle with, with one, people or process, often prevailing over the other. Why should they be mutually exclusive?
My take on the debate is this; people do business with people, not processes. Do not get me wrong, every business needs to put processes in place and to set boundaries in order to grow and flourish, creating consistency and stability. The shift in thinking is that these processes are not set in stone, they need to evolve and grow with the business, its needs and its clients needs.
Gone are the days when things are done a certain way simply because that is how they have always been done. In a time when big business is waking up to the need for agility and responsiveness, nothing is unmovable, everything is questioned. And everything is an opportunity.
However, the evolution of processes relies on the people they serve. It relies on all stakeholders, team members and clients working together to find the best process for any specific task or business needs, invited to find a better process that could serve their needs better. It relies on partnership in the true sense of the word, and it relies on someone holding their hands up and saying, ‘this could be done a better way’.
So, for processes to be successful they depend on people to follow them and consistently evaluate them, recognising when it is time to re-consider, update, or scrap all together. People and process – mutually exclusive they most definitely are not. They are inextricably linked, equally important factors which contribute to business success.
I am a huge advocate of the power of your people for sustainable business growth and success. Great organisations boast great people. And these great organisations are great because they also have a great culture, unique to its people, industry and in countless other ways.
Whilst defining everything that a culture is made up of is near impossible to pin down, indicators of a great culture include empowered employees, a focus on team performance, innovation, work-life balance and a glass half full attitude. All recognised, strategised-over factors leading to increased bottom lines and happy clients, in a self-perpetuating cycle of business success but they need to be embedded into the processes that drive the organisation. They need to come from the heart.
Linking everything together, business today is about agility. It is about facing uncertainty, and any other curve balls thrown your way, and being able to navigate through them, maximizing profitability and delivering exceptional customer service in spite of them or sometimes, because of them. These nimble organisations are those that will thrive in the long term. Like the fabled grass bending in the wind, a successful organisation knows when to bow, turn and change.
This applies not just to external market influences, like a global pandemic, but also changes within the organisation itself. How to be agile comes from within, from passionate leaders, stakeholders and employees ‘ from the culture.
People and not processes make change happen. Equipping people with the right tools and providing the right environment will enable them to innovate and adapt to whatever is thrown their way. It needs the leadership vision to drive it and then the process and structure to achieve it.
Think of your organisation and all who sail in her as a living, breathing creature. Every element evolves and every element learns. This goes for leaders to customer facing, from suppliers to clients and from processes to technology. A learning organisation such as this has the ability to identify opportunities and threats, adapt and succeed. It needs a learning culture to match, a safe environment for people to expand their knowledge, innovate, collaborate and be the best that they can be. As you scale to become a bigger company you need more processes however it is a balancing act between process and allowing your people to flourish.
Look after all these elements, take care of them, embrace their uniqueness, use them as one big collaborative tool. That is the key to remaining agile.