The Conventional Understanding of Processes
Through conventional ideas, one can develop (good) processes in organisations by defining actions and processing steps which follow one after the other, by providing these with appropriate resources, by instructing employees to adhere to the worked-out procedures, providing them with training for this, by appointing process managers and by introducing compulsory documentations such as a quality monitoring system (like ISO). The entire thing is then usually monitored on a meta-level to control transaction costs.
A system-theoretical analysis of this approach reveals the following:
- Serial thinking and planning does not serve the recursive nature of organisations. (“We didn‘t expect this result in the preliminary design!”). Because of this, too many contingencies are ignored.
- Therefore, defining process structures doesn’t ensure their enforceability at all, (“What is the normal chain of command, here?”).
- The employees are given an implementation role in which reflection or even adaptation of the process structure is no longer intended (“I can only receive the clearance from this board!”).
- This implementation role makes learning unlikely, trouble-shooting difficult, communications about the need to adapt complicated, and it hinders motivation.
- Viewed in this way, processes are not seen as communication, but rather as actions which can be directed and controlled. However, by doing so, one neglects the fact that these processes also continuously create uncertainty and insecurity, which can only be resolved through communication and not with rules.
- Those responsible for process almost always establish an official level (The lights are green) and an unofficial level (“We don’t really have a clue how we are supposed to accomplish this!”). Therefore, important information flows into the communications of the rest of the organisation too late.
- The employees circumvent these processes, so that they can react appropriate to the real-time situations, or so that they can further their own interests.