Yes, you read that right.  I repeat, don’t improve your processes!  If you haven’t read my blogs titled Don’t Continually Improve, Don’t Adjust, Don’t Focus on Cost and Don’t Be Efficient, please consider doing so as this blog builds on the concepts introduced there. 

Here’s why you shouldn’t improve your processes.  The focus on process improvement is based on two faulty premises.  The first is that all processes need to be improved.  This attitude is prevalent because we tend to create silos (aka “departments”) in organizations as a way to manage disparate activities.  Each manager typically then has to meet certain metrics to show that their department is performing adequately against some target(s). We then tend to try to improve process performance to meet those targets.  This is done without any regard how these improvements will affect the performance of other departments or the organization overall.  It is all about making the numbers for my department, probably because my bonus is tied to it.  But does the process really need improvement?  That is, will improving this process improve the (financial) performance of the organization?  A lot of times the answer is no, but the question is rarely even asked.

The second is the false assumption that a collection of optimized processes results in an optimized system. Systems thinking says otherwise.  I like the rowing analogy to demonstrate this point. You don’t try to get maximum performance out of each rower.  What is more important is synchronization of the rowers which are the processes in the analogy.  If all the rowers row at their individual maximum speed and strength, the boat does not move at it’s maximum speed in a straight line. In fact, it might just go in a circle!  And this is what happens to a company if every process is optimized on its own.  The company does not move forward (i.e. increase profit) as it should.  In fact, for maximum system performance some processes must operate below optimum.  That is, the strongest rowers must NOT give their all.  This is very difficult for most managers to accept and very uncommon for executives to demand.  However, the logic is sound even if it is counterintuitive at first.  This is also one of the main concepts in the Theory of Constraints.  I encourage you to dig a little deeper and see what you find.

Don’t improve your processes,