Skip to Page Content

The Case of the People versus Processes (Entry #1 of 5)

    I don’t know about you, but to me Human Resource Management sometimes feels more like dealing with processes, or regulations than it does anything resembling human. Whether it’s helping someone fill out a form or instructing managers on a documentation process, it’s sometimes easy to forget our first priority is to the humans among us. Can we focus on humans more if we eliminate a procedural impediment? Or is the procedure necessary to avoid bigger problems?

    For example, we are currently in the midst of performance evaluations at my workplace. In my most recent performance evaluation meeting we discussed the need to examine processes and identify ones that could be eliminated. I hope to take you along with me as I take on this project through four more additional blog entries. This first entry will cover my reasoning for how to approach the task of eliminating an unnecessary process.

    It would be great to get rid of a process that gets on everyone’s nerves from time-to-time. Using the performance evaluation process as an initial example, there are a lot of differing reactions to the process. A lot of managers just want to fill out the form and be done with it. Other managers want to meet with their employees but hate filling out the form with a purple passion. The only thing that everyone can agree on is that they wish the process were better in some way. Some might even wish it would go away altogether, but I think that most of you would agree that some sort of performance evaluation process is necessary. So if the performance evaluation process can’t be eliminated, what can?

    Ironically, it turns out that I need to figure out what my process is going to be for identifying and eliminating an unnecessary process.To figure this out, I decided to start by consulting my trusty Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

    1process: noun

    1a Progress, advance

    1b Something going on or proceeding

    2a Natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result

    2b A series of actions or operations conducing to an end

    Reviewing the various meanings of the word “process” lead me to consider a couple of ideas that hadn’t occurred to me initially.

    First, processes are what move things forward in the organization. As Human Resources professionals, we know that processes often have very good reasons for existing. Processes, particularly documented ones, can be the difference between losing a lawsuit or avoiding one entirely. But processes can also get in the way of moving things forward. These are the ones I need to find. The first question I will ask about any process I am considering eliminating will be, "is this process moving things forward? Or is it holding things back?"

    And second, some processes may not have been planned or designed as much as they just evolved naturally in the organization. Sometimes people just need to get things done and they figure out a way that works. And if the process is dependent on people from different departments or functions working together they might not have designed the process as a whole, but instead focused on each of their individual tasks. These processes might be prime targets for improvement if not elimination. It will be something to watch for.

    I quickly outlined the following process - making a note to myself to remember to include people in my reasoning and in my process whenever possible. In other words – keep the “human” in Human Resource Management.

    1. Identify an unnecessary process
    2. Develop an action plan for eliminating the process
    3. Implement the action plan
    4. Evaluate the success of the plan (after some predetermined time has passed)

    What do you think? Too much? Too little? Agree or disagree? Leave a comment!


    Check back in the next week or two for blog entry #2: Identifying an Unnecessary Process (a.k.a. Target Acquisition)

    Works Cited

    Merriam-Webster, Inc. (2003). Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh Edition.

    Blog Categories: