The relationship between “needs” and “process”

Change vs. Process

Change vs. Process

Coming back from lunch a bit ago with sore throat (sucks) and had this thought randomly. I think I can describe the business world in one equation/concept (while admitting that all organizations are unique in their own way).

Rate/Speed Of Needs > Rate/Speed of Process

Think of it like this: your needs change often in a business/organization. You need a new website template, or a new concept around your funnel, or new headcount, or a new copier, or whatever the aspect may be. To make those changes, though, you often need to go through process, which can take a lot longer to change. Process is sacred to most people. The human brain learns something, gets comfortable with it, habituates it, and then moves on with new things. (Without this process, we’d all be running around like idiots all the time; with this process, we still mostly are.) So to bring in a new process is a whole uncomfortable thing for most people. You couple that with “The Temple Of Busy” and good luck getting anything going when you need an immediate change.

This becomes a challenge for a lot of businesses. How do you keep your people comfortable (understanding the core processes) while also responding to quickly-evolving business needs? At most places I’ve worked, people throw new software or technology at a problem. You’re seeing this a lot right now with “employee engagement.” The thing is, oftentimes a new piece of software or new technology is something that people instantly resent, because it means something new they need to learn. (Remember: even if you’re really smart, your brain is still inherently lazy.)

Let’s go with a personal story. I used to work at this gig running a website for a company (pretty big one). Over time, the needs of the pages I could build evolved. I needed more ways to embed photos in the text, for example. A small thing, and no, not truly revenue-facing. But the process to get this done was tedious. File a ticket. Wait for a development resource to become available. Meanwhile, as weeks went by, I’d have people in multiple departments e-mailing me saying “Make it look this way!” or “It should lay out like this!”

I’d always have to be like, “Well, it can’t. I’m just working within the limitations of the system.”


Needs change.

But …

Process takes a while to catch up.

Managing that out — needs go fast, process shifts go slow — seems like the cornerstone of a lot of business issues. Am I wrong here?

Ted Bauer