Culture eats process for breakfast

Another great presentation by Henrik Kniberg, “Culture over Process” , among other things clearly demonstating that the lessons from Dan Pink’s Drive are fundamental for sustained performance, productivity, and adaptability. Culture matters vastly more for outcomes than any process.

Unfortunately, our businesses as well as our public services have since long been dominated by the governance fundamentalists, the New Public Management devotees,  the process czar’s, the metrics & certification masochists,  those for whom the words ‘governance’, ‘process adherence’  and ‘mandatory’ are almost religious or sexual fetishes to be worshipped, those who have strong opinions and say on how things shall be done, which tools shall be used, which reports to be written etc,  but who themselves have limited if any knowledge nor practical experience of the craft itself, i.e. how to actually design and construct a system.

Henrik’s presentation clearly demonstrates how flawed this ‘systems are built by perfect processes‘ fallacy is:

systems are built by people, not processes,  it’s the quality, capability, knowledge, skills and motivation of those people,  that makes the difference, and for those qualities to thrive, culture is essential.

Processes are (or more correctly: shold be) just administrative tools to help people getting mundane trivial tasks done as effortlessly as possible, and as such, they should be kept minimal.

[As we speak, there are several great illustrations over the failings of a process oriented culture in swedish political debate right now, the most well known one probably being the catastrophic results for Sweden in the recent Pisa survey, which measures the ability of 15 year olds in fundamental school subjects such as math, reading and science.  The debate about these declining results of the swedish school system has been heated, and our politicians have since long resorted to micro-management of the schools and the jobs of the teachers, i.e. instigated more and more ‘process’,’metrics’, ‘governance’  and ‘certifications’, to a point where the teachers now spend more time on

a) documenting what they will be doing, and

b) documenting what they have done

instead of doing actual teaching, coaching and mentoring. 

Despite of this very high level of governance, the results are plummeting…. 

To me it’s obvious that the problems of the swedish schools are not caused by lack of governance  – instead, the problems are systemic, the problem is in the culture – Sweden is probably among the countries of the world where people have the most amount of years of formal education, but still, we are among the least knowledgeable and skilled, if we by knowledge and skills refer to an ability to critical thinking and ability to apply aquired knowledge to the world surrounding us….

There’s an excellent post in today’s DN, by Maciej Zaremba, on this systemic failure of the swedish system, in several domains, from Thomas Quick over Pisa to the very infected debate of immigration…]

[thx to Mats R. for the pointer to Henrik’s post!]

About swdevperestroika

High tech industry veteran, avid hacker reluctantly transformed to mgmt consultant.
This entry was posted in Agile, Culture, Leadership, Lean, Management, Organization, SelfOptimizingAgile, software and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Culture eats process for breakfast

  1. Ari Jouppila says:

    Culture eats process for breakfast, but systems eat culture for lunch.

  2. Perhaps it’s so Ari, but my hope and belief is that only systems starved for culture, do eat culture for lunch. Good systems nurture and grow culture.

  3. Ari Jouppila says:

    Yes, that is the point with my comment. The different systems in today’s corporations are so powerful that it is difficult to build a culture independent of it. Too often, we believe that we can change a culture by focusing on people and their mindsets/attitudes only and without changing the systems under which the organization operate.

  4. Pingback: Culture eats process for breakfast | Selrahc's Platinum

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