I have seen organizations that do the following.
They define their work processes and implement them across the organization to get certified against a certain standard (like ISO). Standards enforce compliance and sometimes, leaders falls in a trap of linking the level of compliance with performance of individuals. This is how a “constraint” mindset works. If people don’t comply, punish them. We get so obsessed by the process adherence that we overlook the ground level issues people face.
In my book “#QUALITYtweet – 140 bite-sized ideas to deliver quality in every project”, I wrote:
If you don’t treat your process as a tool to generate quality, process has a tendency to drive you.
This is highly counter-productive in my view. Process improvement demands that improvement leaders practice an “abundance” mindset.
When people don’t follow a process, it only means that either they don’t know how to use the process or the defined process simply doesn’t work for them. In either case, it is an opportunity to improve.
Here are a few questions that can help in introspecting, when a process does not work:
Is this process (or a sub-process) really helping people do their job better?
Do people have knowledge of why this process is required and how it makes them more effective? Are they clear on the purpose of having this process?
Can this process (or a sub-process) be simplified further in a way that it is equally/more effective?
Is there a work scenario that has not been addressed by the current set of processes?
Do people have knowledge of how to perform the process? If no, what additional training/counseling is required? Is the necessary guidance/references available?
Are middle managers aligned to the organization’s vision for having processes, and are they setting the right examples for people to follow?
Bottom line: Adopt a pragmatic approach when implementing processes. When processes are not followed, ask “Why?” often, instead of punishing people right away. Get to the root of the non-compliance and you will find the actual problem. Non-compliance is just a symptom. Ask right questions, involve your people and assess if process really serves the purpose.