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Processes with people - part 2

The previous article was exploring how companies can lose focus on many important factors, with complexity encroaching on them. Based on the article’s conclusion we can notice that processes and structures are the features that can inadvertently annoy users, seem bureaucratic, create useless work and have an unexpected impact on both employees and company results.

Too often, when creating processes, the user has to bend towards the process even though we all intuitively know that should work the other way round. The process should be designed to accommodate the user. Ignoring the role of the user in a process can lead to many detriments mentioned above, while not having control of the potential impact the process has on both users and the company.

Despite being largely ignored in praxis and research, it can end up with angry employees dissatisfied with un-intuitive, bureaucratic or nonsensical processes which lead to decreased performance, worse retention rates and generally poorer work culture.

This issue may not even be easily identifiable, especially in larger organizations, when one process has to fulfill multiple criteria – i.e. from strategic concern, profitability, security, and many others.

With this kind of complexity, you can look at a simple task from multiple perspectives, and when you need to track and control most of them, you can end up creating more work, then the task is actually worth it.

What I see as the main problem here is that very often, no one actually considers which approach is best to use. Or rather, all factors are put aside apart from one, the Decision-maker chooses, without considering the consequences. What is then left is put together to fulfill other most basic needs of the process. And within all the possible criteria being thrown out of the window, the role of the user in the process is usually among the first ones.

Designing for humans

Suggested solution, how to remedy that is an emerging practice of ‘Human-centered Design’ which focuses primarily on human approach and human needs. This approach, despite being fairly old, has been gaining more and more attention recently.

It helps to build the design around key users, with a focus on their perspective and need, usually with a very strong collaboration. It can be used in a variety of areas, from creating software to organizing humanitarian aid (which is one of the use cases, and reasons why company IDEO made its HCD toolkit available for free).

The main steps in building a human-centered Process consist of creating the Hear-Create-Deliver synergy.

The Hear-Create-Deliver synergy actually represents a similar approach as many Agile methods, trying to take notes from users (Hear), designing a product with them in mind (Create) and making them interact with the prototype of the solution (Deliver) as soon as possible, while improving the design in following iterations along with a number of principles, making the end-user/employee focus on the designing process.

This keeps the user engaged, makes him feel heard and important in a process, as opposed to feeling like a cog in a machine without any consideration. Meanwhile, the developers get important insight and are actually able to see, if their work made any difference, and wasn’t shelved as another ‘manager fad’.

In conclusion, with the role of users and employees considered in the process, the process will naturally benefit as a direct result. Because employees won’t mind working on it. They won’t do just the bare minimum and leave it dissatisfied. Finding a sense in work has been repeatedly found as an important fact that makes employees happy, engaged, and leads to benefit for the entire organization. Getting rid of work that robs employees of that feeling is necessary to reap those benefits, together with actively considering their role in processes as (at least at some point) a priority.