“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley,” Sun Tzu wrote in his book, “The Art of War,” and nowhere is this quote more appropriate than in balancing people and processes in business management.
Depending on your talents, preferences, and experiences as a manager, walking the tightrope between prioritizing employees or prioritizing business processes can lean toward a particular direction. You either align closer to the people side, or you lean more relative to the process side.
The balancing act
Conventional wisdom dictates that prioritizing people should be a leader’s prerogative, but according to Chuck Kocher, the founder of the Transformation Company, having talented and dedicated employees without robust processes in place is a recipe for failure. These types of business structures exist for four reasons:
– They channel your team’s energy toward achievable goals.
– A clear-cut process creates stability and peace of mind for both staff and management.
– Processes generate consistency in both performance and results.
– When all else fails, a reliable, process-oriented structure provides an emergency fail-safe.
However, too much emphasis on following processes can lead to stagnation and other negative results that may impact the growth and potential of your company.
Relying on business procedures alone produces expected and reliable results. Still, if you want to exceed those expectations and gain a vital advantage over the competition, you must consider re-calibrating your communication strategy. Processes guarantee results, but it’s your people – the living components of your company’s well-oiled machine – that guarantees growth.
Five ways you can develop a harmonious balance between people and processes
1. Create an agile work environment that shifts between structure and flexibility. Doing so allows your staff and colleagues to utilize creativity and innovation while remaining rooted within company policies. To do so, they must learn the reasons behind the processes you’ve created, thereby creating understanding and awareness.
2. Build trust and dependability among various departments. This involves communicating with supervisors and team members respectfully and constructively. Listen to their concerns, analyze them, and find common ground between these multiple inputs.
3. Eliminate unwanted power dynamics by implementing a program that recognizes and encourages beneficial work. Leadership-through-example is a powerful technique, one that many historical leaders such as Sun Tzu utilized among their cohorts. By lifting and highlighting luminaries among your ranks, you create concrete ideals that people will follow and aspire to become.
4. Education and learning should go hand-in-hand with company growth. As your processes evolve, so too should the skills of the team. This technique called “Kaizen,” a Japanese term that means “continuous improvement,” has been the driving force for many iconic companies in North America and overseas.
5. Develop self-sufficiency and initiative among team members. As Albert Einstein himself said, “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
These are only a few methods in striking a balance between your team’s needs and the business processes you’ve established. Again, we return to the quote by Sun Tzu, which reminds us to treat our personnel like our beloved sons. This doesn’t mean letting them do whatever they want in a haphazard manner, but it also doesn’t involve stunting their growth through suffocating rules and regulations.
It means re-calibrating our expectations and our procedures to enhance the people working for us, thereby allowing them to grow and take pride in their craft.
Do this, Sun Tzu says, and they will follow you even into the deepest valley.
By Ellis Bledsoe, Principal Owner ECB Solutions, LLC