Business Management Articles / Manufacturing
THE PROCESS MANAGER
Rene T. Domingo (email comments to email@example.com)
In the proverbial race between the turtle
and the hare, it was not a triumph of perseverance
over arrogance. The turtle won because he
had a better management philosophy. The agile
competitor was result-oriented while the sluggish
victor was process-oriented. The hare was
so sure of winning because of his natural
swiftness that he dismissed with glee and
contempt the challenger's threat. He thought
that he would reach the finish line first
in any way he so desires, thus frittering
away time and pandering to all sorts of distractions
along the way. The turtle decided that to
reach his destination, he had to go in the
right direction without stopping while maintaining
constant "full speed". It was the
selection and execution of the right process
that determined the final result, and not
the possession of ability and confidence.
THE HUNGRY MAN
We have been told and convinced that to help
a hungry man, it better to teach him how to
fish (process) than to give him fish (result).
Better yet, why not teach him how to find
and earn a living just in case the lake dries
out or runs out of fish. When one goes to
the temple to learn the martial arts from
the master, the novice does not start with
sword wielding lessons or kicking techniques.
For years, he is asked to sweep the floor,
clean the dishes, meditate and pray -- activities
or processes which to the impatient does not
seem to have anything to do with the objective
of subduing one's enemy or defending oneself.
The master starts with the process of developing
and strengthening one's character and attitudes
- perseverance, humility, concentration, consistency
- that would be crucial when he starts handling
the sword and confronting the enemy. Those
who are just good at techniques and smashing
bricks never become true masters of the art.
If process-orientation is clearly the better
approach, why is it that business in general
is so preoccupied with producing and chasing
results - sales targets, ROI's, bottom lines,
quotas, budgets - to the extent of neglecting
process development and process improvement.
The result manager would tell his subordinate:
"I don't care how you do it, just do
it! I don't even want to hear how you'd do
it!" The poor creature is rewarded if
he succeeds, or chastised if he fails to meet
the objective. More often than not, he would
fail and he and his boss would not know why,
because he "doesn't want to hear excuses
and explanations". Thus the subordinate
never grows up, never learns, and would repeat
the same mistakes. The ultimate victim of
this vicious cycle is of course the company.
FROM THE MILITARY
Just like many other management techniques,
PERT and Strategic Planning to name some,
the practice of managing by results or objective
was borrowed by business from the military.
But the military situation is totally different
from that of business. War is a project that
has a beginning and an end; the ultimate goal
is victory. There is no time to learn from
mistakes; there is no second chance. You are
either the victor or the vanquished. The end
justifies the means - any means. In business,
however, there is no finish line; if you fail
to meet your targets, it is not normally the
end of the world. There is time to reflect,
recover, reassess, learn, adjust, improve
your aim, catch up and make up for lost time.
There are no permanent victors and vanquished
in business. You are fighting battles; the
name of the game is batting average - or those
with less mistakes win. In war, just one mistake
can mean total and irreversible defeat. In
business you can still come out a winner even
with a lot of mistakes, as long as the competitor
makes more of them.
COACH AND THE JUDGE
Process management does not aim to make mistakes;
it aims to learn from them fast so they would
never be repeated in the future. A process
manager aims for perfection, and he does this
by continuously improving all processes so
that 1) nothing goes wrong and 2) nothing
can go wrong. Mistakes are not anticipated
but are forgiven when they do occur as long
as one learns from them. The result manager
is also after perfection; but he managers
by remote control and refuses to check if
the process can attain its goals. His main
task is to evaluate the process and not to
improve it; the only time he changes the process
is when results are consistently bad - when
it is too late to do anything. The result
manager is a judge, a process manager is a
coach. The former aims for fairness - reward
the good and punish the bad. The latter aims
for victory - encourage the good, and help
Companies managed by results tend to have
short memories. What is important is present
accomplishments versus targets; past performance,
no matter how glorious and how recent, has
no bearing on one's present evaluation. In
the military, you can receive honors and medals
for gallantry one day, and get hanged for
insubordination the following week. This principle
in desirable in war, but disastrous in business.
Companies wagged by results find themselves
alternating unpredictably between celebration
and crisis, between parties and panic. Senior
managers and executives who have built the
company for decades are fired for non-performance
or failure to meet the quarterly or annual
targets. Demoralization is officially systematized.
Organizational instability is traded off for
short term results, for pleasing and awarding
the few who bring in results.
Let us look at one very important process
- the decision making process - and see the
dangers of result-oriented management. The
decision tree below shows that a good decision
can bring good and bad results, so does a
badly made decision.
Note that a decision is theoretically judged
by its result, i.e., a good decision is good
because it brings in good results. But in
practice, we do not know the result of a decision
once it is made; it make take some time before
we know the consequences. But at the time
the decision was made, we can already evaluate
how well or badly the decision was made, whether
it was cautiously or hastily done, whether
it was well-informed or ill-informed, whether
it was scientifically done or pure guesswork
using the flip of the coin or crystal ball.
There are many decision-making processes that
aim to help us select the better decision
or alternative before the actual results are
Note that a well-made decision does not guarantee
that one will not commit a mistake, nor does
a badly made one guarantee disastrous results
always. So what is the point of improving
one's decision-making process when the consequences
seem to be the same? The difference is that
a good decision has a higher chance of yielding
good results than a bad decision; conversely,
a bad decision has a higher probability of
coming out with bad results than a well made
decision. In effect, by improving our decision
making process, we are improving our chances
of success, but not completely preventing
failure. We are just trying to be better decision
makers than others, committing less mistakes.
Good decision makers are still human and imperfect,
but end up as the winners in the long run.
Let us now convert the tree into a grid below
and examine the four scenarios.
means you worked hard and you deserve the
successful outcomes. "B" means you
worked hard, but were not lucky; some external
force beyond your control, the weather perhaps,
got into your way. "C" means you
did not try hard but got lucky. "D"
means you did not do anything and you deserve
all the dire consequences of your actions.
In a result-oriented company, people - management
and employees, superiors and subordinates
- are judged according to results, regardless
of the process that generated the results.
Results are in the form of market shares,
profit targets, ROI, sales volume, cost per
unit, defects per million, production quota,
meeting budgets, etc. Let us see how result
evaluation affects the behavior of the person
being evaluated. If the situation is "A"
or "D", there should be no problem.
If "A", you get awarded, praised,
or promoted for the fine results, so you just
continue or repeat what you have done in the
past -i.e. good decisions - expecting the
same fine results would happen again. If "D",
you get scolded, warned, or penalized for
the disastrous outcome, so you change you
old ways and hopefully you would improve your
decision making process, do the opposite of
what you have done and change it from "bad
decision" to "good decision".
The problem occurs with "B" or "C".
If "B", after being evaluated poorly
for the results, you wrongly conclude that
your decision making process was at fault,
so you just do the opposite - bad decision
- expecting the result to be better next time.
Of course, in reality, more bad results will
happen because of this unnecessary change
in process, and you deteriorate very fast.
Nobody knows why because nobody cares.
If "C", the company congratulates
you for your shining achievements, not knowing
nor caring that you were just lucky and careless.
Because of this pat in the back, you wrongly
conclude that what you did in the past, flipped
the coin perhaps, was right and accurate -
so you repeat the same ritual expecting the
same good things to happen again. Chances
are, the next time you flip that coin, the
result would be a disaster, and you would
get hanged for it. So from hero, you become
a villain, because of the result evaluation
system. You, your boss and the company become
the losers in the final analysis.
The Japanese management system is the epitome
of process-oriented management, while the
Western management system, the result-oriented
management. The difference in management philosophies
are evident in top management decision-making,
corporate strategy, human resource development,
and manufacturing systems. The difference
may also explain excellence and mediocrity,
market dominance and low growth, innovation
and stagnation among many Japanese and Western