I am sure you have all had the same feelings of frustration as me at some point, when you are attempting to get something done and you start thinking “it shouldn’t be this difficult” or “this just feels like bureaucracy gone mad!”
The mountains of red tape we sometimes face can bring on the red mist, we can get angry or we can do something about it. One option is to simply complain but that rarely results in a solution. Another option is to actively look for or create short cuts. This is Process Hacking.
When an organisation insists on putting obstacles in your way, making you jump through hoops in the shape of form filling and endless layers of sign-off and authorisation, the solution is to get creative, change the game and find a new route to the result you are after.
There are several examples of this sort of thing happening already, especially in relation to Government administrative processes. I read online about a resident in one of the London Boroughs who attempted to do his civic duty in reporting issues with roads in need of repair that were having a negative impact on his local community. The number of forms he had to complete to communicate the problems to the right authorities, and the delays in any action being taken as the issues were passed from department to department drove him to desperation. As a result he created a community web portal where residents could log localised problems with roads and other similar issues, upload pictures from their phones and, once he had finally established who in the council could do something about it, created a direct feed to their team for rapid response. This has now turned into the FixMyStreet website. Genius!
Other examples that come to mind include the way musicians have developed and adopted technology to bypass the traditional routes to success. In the past getting your music heard on any significant scale involved layer upon layer of intermediaries between the talent and their audience, all attempting to “guide” the output (or dilute it) and all taking a slice of the pie adding cost to the consumer. Now as consumers we have access to a seemingly endless source of new music via Soundcloud, MySpace, Spotify and Last.fm. We are all A&R talent scouts these days, and if we are overwhelmed by the volume of material and need some sort of filter, we don’t look to the record companies we ask our friends for recommendations because that’s who we trust.
And what about print publishing? I regularly hear stories about authors using new digital print technology to self-publish having struggled for years to get a traditional publisher interested in their work. They have been told they need an agent before they can submit anything, agents are either not interested or put even more barriers in their way and they get nowhere. However, once they have their ISBN number and start selling direct to market via Amazon, their own websites and social media pages, the publishers start coming to them with offers! The power of technology (in the right hands) to drive efficiency and effectiveness is phenomenal, people are changing entire industries, is yours next?
Having worked for large corporations I am only too aware that over-engineered processes are not limited to Government departments and having worked in sales I know that with a little lateral thinking there are ways and means to hack a process. Don’t get me wrong, checks and measures are an important aspect of running a decent business, but if they impede agility and the response to opportunity they can kill a business.
Take procurement for instance. The principle of finding the right suppliers at the right price sounds good to me but in large businesses facing hard times this has very readily become – “let’s treat every service as a commodity, squeeze suppliers to get the lowest price, prevent anyone from sourcing outside of the approved suppliers list and design a lengthy process for getting anyone added to it”. The results of this sort of big business “strategic thinking” are often rapidly shrinking revenues masked by a perceived short term increase in profit, but eventually profit suffers as well.
This type of regime stifles innovation and product development, it leads to disengaged employees who are not empowered to make decisions and disaffected suppliers who either have to start charging more to other clients (unfairly), refuse to work with the big brand (at their peril) or suffer in silence and perhaps go out of business. What is certain is that even if they continue the relationship these companies, including marketing and other creative agencies, are unlikely to be delivering their best solutions as it is no longer a win/win relationship for them.
Many large companies have recognised that this sort of approach isn’t sustainable and, as with most things, the cycle of change is moving us away from such wholesale constraints. The changes are in part driven by those “dissidents” within the organisations who have hacked the processes and demonstrated that there is a better way, individuals can be trusted to make good business decisions that improve efficiency and effectiveness in the short and long term.
I was working with a client as mediatoreal recently and we were exploring potential routes to market for her business Bracket Creative. One of the ideas we developed was around working closely with consultants who are already part of the value chain, not only to better understand the end client and get introductions but potentially to form alliances and partnerships that bypass procurement processes by working alongside an existing approved supplier.
When it comes to process Human Resources professionals are renowned for let’s say – getting a bit carried away. But, good news, there is a new movement on the rise even among respected members of the HR industry body the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) itself. #PUNKHR
If you are unhappy with the time it takes for you to get access to the skills you need to deliver an opportunity then let’s #PUNKHR
If you are concerned with the layers of brokerage and associated cost involved in the recruitment process then let’s #PUNKHR
If you want more localised responsibility for addressing short term temporary skills gaps then let’s #PUNKHR
So, who is ready for a bit of process hacking? Maybe you are doing it already and being thanked for your ingenuity? Tell us about it…