17 March 2010

Business Processes and Real Management – Part 3

Simply put: If there is no process, it – whatever “it” is – cannot be managed.

The key point here is to separate mere intuitive decision-making from the act of “management.”

Management implies the existence of “a process,” – that is, an understood cause-and-effect relationship in a sequence of dependent events leading to a predetermined goal. There are three critical elements to this definition of “management” and “a process”:
  1. The “process” must have a goal or outcome. If there is no goal or outcome that can be stated in advance, then there is no point in attempting to “manage” it, for to manage it would be to somehow affect the outcome of the process (e.g., improvement). If the goal or outcome of the process is not understood or has not been articulated, then there is little need for the act of “management.”
  2. The “process” must include more than one step or event, and the steps or events must be related by their sequential dependence. One cannot manage, for example, “the big bang.”
  3. The “manager,” in order to manage effectively must understand both the goal of the process and the process itself.
If we return to the examples given, whenever an executive must deal with sales operations as mystical mojo that is carried out in some seemingly inexplicable way by certain persons who were hired because they have a demonstrated facility for working this “mojo,” then that executive cannot be said to be “managing” the “sales process.” He or she may be managing many things related to sales, like the expenses related to sales, the number of salespeople, the sales territory assignments, and more. But he or she cannot be managing “the sales process” any more than he or she would be said to be managing a group of witch doctors in the work they do.

Let me go further to say, that even though the executive may have a “prescribed sales process” that includes a number of “steps,” even if those “steps” are canonized in some CRM (customer relationships management) or other software application; and even if the salespeople are required to “check-off” against these prescribed “steps”; if such “steps” are subject to frequent manipulation by the salespeople or sales managers or if a near-constant series of concessions are being made to the demands of salespeople or sales managers in accommodation to their claims of “mojo,” (or something equally nebulous) then no real “sales process” exists in such an organization. Also, if management is repeatedly kowtowed by what amounts to little more than “threats” that “bad things will happen” if salespeople’s and sales managers’ demands are not met in this matter or that, then I would allege that no “sales process” exists.

Now, I hear you asking: “What difference does it make if we have a ‘sales process’ as long as we are making sales and surviving?”

To that question, too, there is a simple answer: If, as an executive, you do not have a real and manageable “sales process,” then you are at the mercy of the economic winds and the fickleness of fate. In the absence of a manageable process, you cannot know what actions will lead to improvement. Despite your title as “executive,” your only recourse is to try this or try that, because you have no comprehension of the actual cause-and-effect dependencies that lead to more sales or better sales.

Is that really how you want to run what is arguably the leading edge of your business enterprise?

Suggested Reading:

Reengineering the Sales Process

©2010 Richard D. Cushing

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