Michael Nelson
January 12, 2014

The Real Power of Process and People in Your Business

In business, many factors determine success and failure.  Finding and fixing the root causes of any challenges is critical to success.  Instead of treating the symptoms, look to treat the cause.  Process maturity and people maturity are two primary root causes for a host of business problems and their interaction with each other is also critical to success.  Without mature processes, a business risks reinventing the wheel repeatedly, may not duplicate successes, presents an erratic customer experience, etc.  Immature people processes can lead to high turnover, disgruntled employees, micromanagement, and retarded growth.

In discussing maturity, it’s easiest to understand and measure with a reference model.  The graphic shows a model that is simple, yet works for most situations and is the one I use most frequently.  On the bottom left you have low maturity resulting in a lower chance of reaching your goals and much waste.  The top right shows a high level of maturity where you reach your goals and operate efficiently and effectively.  I’ll use this model for both process and team maturity in this article.

Processes are groups of related actions and decisions.  They are depicted either graphically or in text and simply represent a flow of steps to take to accomplish something.  They also capture decision points that can lead to different options in the flow.  For instance, a business might have Human Resources processes such as hiring, terminating, benefits, training, performance measurement, salary negotiation, etc.  Each one of those processes can be modeled and captured.  A defined process enables a business to do the same task, such as hiring employees, in the same manner each time.  This has a number of advantages.  The employee in HR conducting the process knows what is expected, the company can train HR employees more easily, there is a reference point to measure performance against, the rest of the company which interacts with the hiring process finds a consistent experience, etc.

Low process maturity will result in wasted time and effort, confusion, poor or unpredictable results, etc.  A more mature process will result in consistency, make budgeting and planning easier, produce expected results, be continuously improved, etc.  I use this maturity model to rate the processes within client businesses and then establish a path to improved maturity in areas where it matters most.

People or team maturity deals with your employees and how well the business is organized to maximize the value they can produce.  In small businesses, people tend to wear many hats and work across several areas.  Newly hired employees enter chaos and are frequently expected to learn on the job.  Maturity in this respect looks at issues that impact the people within a business.  Are there defined roles and responsibilities that guide actions and make it clear what is expected of somebody?  Are the employees aware of the company strategy and core values?  Is time spent engaging the employees in the business future and seeking their input to increase “buy in?”

Low people maturity creates groups of individuals who may know their jobs well, but aren’t connected with the overall direction of the company.  Micromanagement may be encouraged, as managers don’t see their people acting independently because there may not be clear guidance.  People may bicker about whose job it is to accomplish a task and things might fall between the cracks.

As the people maturity increases, employees feel a part of something bigger and more of a team.  They are able and encouraged to make decisions on the spot that represent company values and move the organization closer to its goals.  People are not only clear on what their roles are, but also understand how their roles relate to others and to the business as a whole.  They can trace their actions back to the organizational strategy and understand how valuable their contributions are.  When this happens, turn over decreases, people become more efficient and handle problems as soon as they arise, the business gels and people work together.

The true power of these two areas is when you become more mature at both of them.  When your business processes are well defined, have an updating method, are used regularly and inform job descriptions and IT then your business will function well.  When your people are embedded into the culture of your business, oriented on clear goals, and have a crystal clear understanding of what is expected of them, you can overcome any obstacle.  When you are mature in both areas, your business will become hard to beat and can quickly move toward any new goal and set the standard for your industry.

Process maturity and people maturity aren’t just for big business; they can and should be considered by all businesses, including “solopreneurs.”  While you may not use every aspect, pick the areas that fit your size or growth aspirations and take the time to do things right from the beginning and your growth will be much easier!


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Michael Nelson

Michael Nelson is a small business coach and circumstance marketing innovator who lives in DC with his lovely wife and three insane boys. Michael Nelson ”The Cogent Coach” Follow me on:  Twitter / Facebook /  LinkedIn / Google+
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