There is process design, and there is process operations. The two cannot be executed concurrently without significant cost to the organisation. You cannot fix a bus while driving it.

An organisation that is simultaneously designing and running its operations will experience a decrease in productivity, staff morale, and customer experience. These then decrease the organisation’s resilience to change and its profitability.

Inexplicably, again and again, I see organisational leaders take this route. They expect everything to run business-as-usual while introducing massive change such as:

  • Dismantle running processes and systems, sometimes by removing large number of people with the knowledge of these processes and systems.
  • They introduce new organisational goals (but not the processes and systems) to deliver these goals. These goals can also mysteriously appear to be quite arbitrary, and not related to the mission of the organisation.
  • They set up a clear them-vs-us divide; stubbornly forging ahead with their high-level goals while actively ignoring problems at the operational level.

These leaders are driving the bus that is their organisation, while shouting at people to refit the engine, change the tyres, and deal with customers. They are frustrated by the fact that the bus doesn’t run smoothly; but appear unable to see how their decisions had contributed to the situation.

I can see two possible contributing factors behind such decisions:

  • Incompetence or ignorance: The leader is unable to do the job required of them. They lack the needed training, experience or other characteristics.
  • Personal agenda: The leader is deliberate not doing the job for the good of the organisation. They are instead doing what is needed to further their own career profile, and/or to seek other means of personal gain.