All About Process? Business Improvement Must Factor in People

Does iron-clad process guarantee success?

All About Process? Business Improvement Must Factor in PeopleSaying business process improvement guarantees success is a bit like saying, as long as you have the recipe, it doesnt matter who makes the cake. In theory, that seems true. In truth, thats just a theory.

Ive spent an entire career working within processes and workflows and Ive finally learned what does make for successful business processes.

The key to process is People and The Way They Think

The way they think is the critical part. Ill come back to that shortly. First, here is how I unlocked this.

One day, in graphic detail and via the spectacular failure of very talented people to produce a successful project outcome, I learned a business could have robust process, great people and still fail. Up until that point, naively, I actually thought that was impossible. This was my first eye-opener.


There is no inherent guarantee of success in any process. We already know that, of course. We also realize that success or failure does lie in the hands of the people who use the process. But here is the critical distinction it doesnt lie in peoples talent, skill or willingness it lies in the state of mind of people at the moment they are using the process. This is what I finally saw.

You too can prove that this is true through simple observation, because it is state of mind that produces all human behavior at any given time. This is true of all people, all day long, in every walk of life. It seemed amazing to me that I had never truly seen this. And it took a while to dawn on me how powerful knowing this would be.

Solving the Riddle

As director of a Program and Project Management Division at British Telecom, I was in charge of people as well as training and processes. Id been a user and learner of processes before that, from Prince II, to Six Sigma and well beyond. I speak not just from the experience of trying to implement, use and fix processes, but from the point of view of a person who actually gives a damn.

I cannot even imagine delivering a worldwide IT network for a client and NOT having any processes at all, but I can also see that our weakness is relying on process without paying enough attention to people. So what kind of attention should we be paying? Our efforts to bonus people into good behaviors arent working (See Daniel Pinks TED talk on Motivation below). Experience taught me that performance management alone wouldnt solve the problem. I was forced to look for something more powerful, universal and practical.

The BIG missing piece

The answer lies in the part of the equation that runs underneath and throughout all processes peoples state of mind. Peoples state of mind affects everything they do, whether it is solving problems, delivering products, serving clients, innovating or implementing processes. You can have highly skilled, talented, best-of-class people underperform at times and when they do it is always down to this one missing piece.

Its been my experience, after 10 years running IT programs globally, that if you leverage state of mind as an organization
1. Fewer issues arise in the first place
2. You need far less process to resolve issues
3. The processes you have begin to run more smoothly

At TrueChange we shift people rather than process to achieve this. Once people are clear-headed, not only do new ideas begin to flow, but it becomes glaringly obvious to people how to fix their broken business processes if that is what needs to be done.

It is a matter of focus. Putting focus here and making state of mind an integral part of any business process improvement initiative is what will turn your lackluster improvement efforts into meaningful results . (For more, listen to the audio case study Leading Business Change is An INside OUT job).

Elese Coit is CEO of TrueChange Consultants, a company that partners with organizations to unleash the FULL potential of people through State of Mind Trainings. She is the author of 101 New Pairs of Glasses a book that is being used by educators to teach the power of perspective to shape our lives and her latest book is Inner Directed: Ten Keys To Fine Tune Your Gut Instincts.