Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Process Shall Set You Free

“If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.” 
– W. Edwards Deming

In emerging markets, having clear business processes in a company is seen, more often than not, as a sign that bureacracy and narrow-minded control freaks have kicked in and it's time to leave towards something more fun.

This is mainly due to several objective factors, economic and cultural:

1. emerging markets had cheap, relatively well trained, workforce. So whenever more work had to be done, it was easy to just tap into the cheap labour pool and call it a day. Back in the days, cheap was smart. It still is, in some cases.

2. emerging markets were tough to plan. They were highly volatile and anyway they were growing so fast that your elaborate business plan would have been left in the dust in a few months. I remember that, in one of my positions responsible for the whole Balkans region, we used to call our region "the CNN countries", because at that time there was always something in the international news about them: wars in Bosnia or Serbia, ethnic tensions in FYROM or Albania, an economic meltdown in Bulgaria, a political turmoil in Romania, an army standoff in Moldova. Good luck doing anything else than surviving.

3. the prevalent emerging market business model was: "start doing something, doesn't matter how because you are anyway one of the firsts, grow it fast and sell it to a multinational that wants a quick way into an unknown market without the trouble of setting up shop". There is no room for business processes in such a gold rush.

There are also lots of subjective factors that stem from the negative-bias management style (particularly specific to former Eastern Europe dictatorships), the social pressure to quickly perform and achieve a desired status (which leads to corruption) etc..

They all lead to the same conclusion: educating local businesses about the need for business processes is one tough nut to crack.

Nevertheless, in the following weeks, I'll be trying my teeth at this seemingly monstruous task, but not in the usual "consultant's way", preaching incessantly about optimization and automatization and standardization and return on investment.

Instead, I'll be giving out specific tips & tricks, from my own experience, at the same time putting them into the overall framework of "lean mentality".

Feel free to chip in with your own tips & tricks.... as of next week. :-)

More to come :-)