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Process vs. People: Closing the Divide

Process vs. People: Closing the Divide

I am continuing to read Brian J Robertson’s book Holacracy” and reflecting on the ideas it introduces. It does describe what the sub-title promises: “The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy.” And, in doing so, it offers something interesting, innovative and, apparently practical. Yet, despite offering a much-needed solution to one of the major challenges of our times, I was finding myself surprisingly unexcited. Then I realised why.

It was partly because it describes a process. This, perhaps unavoidably, makes the book abstract and rather dry. After all process descriptions are only ever likely to provide gripping reading to people who have an engineering mind set. And, I am not sure that I fit into that category.  

Having realised that, however, I recognised that my misgivings were more personal. The issue actually lay with me, because my starting point is with people. I was thus, intuitively, baulking at these new ideas because the starting premise with process is making people more productive. As a result there is a danger that you may simply end up replacing one impersonal process with another, without doing anything to improve employee engagement or the other issues that bedevil the workplace today.

So now I had to question myself as well as ensure I was not being prejudiced.

I began by asking myself if it would be possible to change the workplace environment without any process change. This was easily answered when I accepted that even introducing my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model would entail new processes. Oh dear! Time for some humble pie. I pressed on. And I am glad I did.

As I read on, I came across this statement. “I liken Holacracy to a new operating system because it changes the fundamental power structure and governance paradigm for your organisation, without specifying how to structure all the functions and process your organisation needs … Just as most computers need at least some basic apps in order to be remotely useful, most organisations also needs some basic apps to function effectively.”  This was a light-bulb moment.

It is all very well holding up Business Process Re-engineering, for instance, as a half-solution that completely failed to address the human aspect of business, but the fact remains that people and process are inseparable. Ultimately it is people who carry out processes. Or, if you want to put it the other way, processes depend on people. Consequently there is no point in creating, or perpetuating, a divide between them.

Thus I realised that my ‘Every Individual Matters’ Model is not so very different. It drives the whole people management and development aspect of the organisation, but it still operates within a larger ‘ecological’ environment, whether a hierarchical one or a holacratic one. And given the issues with hierarchy and its command and control legacy, I would definitely prefer a holacratic one.  Consequently, I need to think further how the two might work together. 

After all, every individual matters.

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