Over the last 20 years there has been a significant increase in the level of compliance, safety, HR, quality and other processes introduced within organisations. This has been in the form of additional people resources, systems, policies and processes put in to these areas, with the expectation that they will raise the bar of standards and performance. A significant amount of time and energy has been allocated to designing and filling in forms, having ineffective safety meetings and people covering themselves by hiding behind processes and systems to do their job. The problem is that if these take preference over people and we don’t explain why they are important, it won’t raise the bar now and in the future. The reason for this is that it doesn’t address the root causes behind why people feel engaged and empowered to do their jobs effectively.

We have taken away authority from people to take responsibility to deliver outcomes and do things in the right way. Further, we have added layers of bureaucracy, forms and systems that prevent our people focusing on what is important in delivering outcomes. I think the core reason behind this has been we have put people behind process.

In terms of making this shift back towards people over process, there are a number of areas we need to focus on. They include:

  • Start with trusting people to do their jobs. Don’t penalise the entire classroom for one kid’s bad behavior by adding another form or system. Deal with the one employee that got it wrong and continue to trust others who do it well to do their job;
  • Have a stop doing list around new forms, policies and templates. Stop the new initiatives or forms for the sake of it. Have a rule where new things can only be introduced if they remove other forms or processes or they combine previous activities;
  • Differentiate between mistakes because there are different types. Mistakes that are fear driven, passing responsibility or based on not being proactive need to be called. Mistakes because we have a positive intent and are being proactive should be encouraged because this is how we learn;
  • Structure up your HR, Safety, Quality and other compliance areas to be lean. It will encourage ownership of these areas by line management which is where the responsibility should sit;
  • Start any conversations around these areas with the importance of people. People matter and they need to know this. When we focus heavily on process, systems and forms, we send a message that people are a cog in the system rather than the systems being part of what people use to be effective; and
  • Challenge the tide of compliance. If someone wants to add more layers, ask why and then ask why again and again until you get to the true root cause of why they want to add something. There would need to be a good reason to add more to an organisation that is already struggling to deliver outcomes to their clients or stakeholders.

This blog is provocative but for good reason. The cost of people over process is not just financial. It gets to the core of engagement with staff around their ease of doing their jobs. Make it easier for your staff to do business with yourself and your organisation. Put your people over your process and you will see a great response from everyone involved. It might also allow your people to free up significant time and energy to deliver better outcomes for everyone involved.