There are a couple of physical devices on the sled that don’t exist in a firm’s management structure. Harnesses, yokes, and guide wires actually hook the dogs up to the sled, create distinct distances between the dogs, and help to define their roles. These things also help define their position relative to the sled and to the Musher.
What’s interesting is that in business, human beings don’t necessarily have this kind of physical apparatus to understand what their position is, and what their roles are relative to each other. I would argue that these are the business processes in an organization. Process is what helps people to understand their relationships to each other, how they should interact, what the rules of engagement are, how accountability is managed and monitored. Here is why I say “without process, it’s personal,” as when things go wrong, or unexecuted, without process all employees can do is blame one another. They can’t point to the failure of the process, which interconnects their activity.
But the other thing with that harness is that the sled’s going nowhere without the harness and the guide wires. Not only does it help define the dog’s relationships to each other, but it actually harnesses the dog power to pull the sled. Think of that, if you had all this talent and energy in your management organization, and it all went helter skelter because nothing was in place to align and focus the outputs. What a waste! As I have said in a previous posting, organizational design is in fact the harness – the explict mapping of the human capital and leadership structure which is well understood by all.
So process is critical to really motivating the enterprise. Dogs in unison pulling the sled and the Musher. But “unison” is a tricky concept. Can process alone ensure that the enterprise will execute in unison?