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Process is a team sport

Saturday afternoon, an hour to go before the game kicks off and the manager and players have gathered to discuss strategy and tactics. What you can and should expect to see is that every player – including the substitutes – knows about the overall game plan. The defenders understand the strategy the strikers want to follow, the midfielders know everything about the tactics the defenders intend to use. They all have a need to know. What this does not imply is that just because a striker knows how the defence is going to work he is in fact turning into a defender.

Contrast this with the often highly selective way in which we involve the ultimate users of processes. While keeping someone in the dark may be a good approach when planning a surprise birthday party, this should not be the strategy of choice when it comes to business processes. But what does our survey tell us about the real world?

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There are two important aspects to consider here:

  • When, how and to what extend is the individual process user informed, trained and involved on the changes as far as they relate to his or her work?
  • When and how is the context, i.e. the whole process, communicated – if at all?

Imagine the team manager simply writing the days game plan down on paper and handing out copies without further explanation or refusing to answer questions from the players. Premier League goodbye. Actually: Manager goodbye. But that’s not how the game is generally played in the process world. If companies do in fact share information about processes with their employees, it’s mostly either by publishing process models on the intranet or by informing employees via email.

None of this is particularly result-driven. More often than not it’s simply discharging your information obligation by “having published something somewhere”. How much of that information actually reaches the intended recipients and what they can make of it seems to be of secondary importance – as those 13%+33% in the chart above tell us.

What companies should be aiming for is a mix of general process information coupled with engaging process users to such an extent that they UNDERSTAND what they should be doing and WHY. Note the WHY as this is where context comes into play: This is when the midfielder understands why this weekend he should be playing long balls into the penalty area instead of trying the delicate 1-2 passing game.

Football (or soccer to those more accustomed to wearing helmets and shoulder pads when walking onto a playing field) was never designed as a 4-4-1 or 4-3-2 game, that’s just the team-internal formation. Instead, it’s ONE team and not really that much different from how we should be looking at processes.

Having said that, let me improve on the heading of this article: Process is a team sport played by knowledgeable people.

By the way, the survey also asked about the importance of twitter, blogs, wikis and other channels to communicate about processes. I’ll leave that chart for the BBCCon12 presentation next week – we might have something to think about.

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