• Kevin Harris

To be Efficient and Sustainable, focus on Processes not Outcomes

I was once a production manager in a pharmaceuticals factory owned by a listed multinational where the ops director was absolutely driven by hard measures like MUV (materials usage variance), cases produced and % of rework. He was a very aggressive manager (we have all had one) and drilled everyone when the numbers didn't meet his expectations. Production managers, supervisors and charge-hands were terrified of landing up on his bad side and over time, they developed explanation fatigue. In order to avoid the castigation, people started to hide their waste and not report their rework in order for their numbers to look brighter. They would also save some production on good shifts in case they needed to augment the production on bad shifts.


After a period of sustained excellence, the ops director was promoted to a higher position within the organisation and the QA manager was promoted to ops director. IT wasn't a month and the wheels began to fall off. Like a horror story of some ponzi scheme, the mess became so big and tangled that no one could fix it. The company suffered a series of major quality assurance failures and recalls and the 'poor' recently promoted QA manager was left red faced to explain the sudden collapse of a 'healthy' operation.


What began to surface through all the investigations was that the culture of the organisation had become irreparably negative because employees were only focused on covering their tracks and staying out of harms way and that the 'do right for the customer' ethic that had previously driven the company had all but been erased.


The moral of the story is that while it is critical to measure how well or badly an organisation is performing, measurement and the ensuing punishment or reward should never get more attention than the processes that drive them. Process and system health together with soft issues like relationship management and employee satisfaction should be at the top of any managers mind.


If you are responsible for your organisations, growth, efficiency and sustainability (we all are because these are the only goals of business) then I urge you to take a long hard look at how you manage your processes. The results will come on their own.


Kevin Harris


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