Saturday, March 19, 2016

Towards personalized processes (for employees)

My assumption is that if we dive deeper in human centered process design (as described in my previous post), and research people that work in processes, we will find similar findings as user-centered designers do when they research customers:
> People are different in many ways, for instance in terms of needs, preferences, skills and behavior

Product and service delivery companies have struggled with this, and the big shift from industrialized homogeneous delivery to modern days have been personalisation and mass customization. You might argue on the extent that companies have been able to really reach this, but I think that this shift towards personalized services will continue. And also that the human centered approach to design of products and services will further grow - to meet personal individual needs of people in better ways.

Now, that's interesting. As BPM-consultants we typically define processes aimed at standardization. We want processes to be simple, consistent, the same for all (in the same role & swimlane of our nifty process models). Some process designers do not even have a clear picture of the employees, and will design jobs from a very generic perspective.

But if we want to help create work environments which engage, motivate and even help employees thrive, we need to take the individuality of employees into consideration, even put in central.
My assumption is that if we look deep into humans in the role of employee, we will find:
1. Generic human traits and needs that apply to all
2. Traits and needs for particular groups of people (persona's)
3. Pure individual traits and needs (the individual employees in your process)

As process designers, if we strive to fully engage each and everyone employee in process execution, we will need new methods and approaches to design processes that can address all these 3 levels.
In my opinion, this could be the dawn of the personalized process: processes that are able to tune in to each employee's unique traits and needs, and create a working environment that triggers that person's motivation, need for meaning, engagement and perhaps happiness.

Towards human centered process design

We spent a considerable part of our energy and life-time at work. That makes it painful to see the typical statistics on employee engagement. Some organizations even talk about a worldwide employee engagement crisis . And I think change is needed. As BPM/Lean consultants I think we should research this, and perhaps also discover that we are part of the problem.

A simple question you might want to ask yourself: when you design processes, and would need to pick the key 2 or 3 goals you or the organization wants to reach, which ones would win from the following list:
- Cost reduction
- Value for the customer
- Employee motivation
- Quality improvemen
- Improved Customer Experience
- Efficiency
- Employee engagement
- Agility
- Reach strategy alignment
- Increase Employee happiness
- Reduced cycle time

And? I bet that most people picked cost, efficiency, cycletime, perhaps quality, and perhaps customer experience. The reasons? I don't know, but my assumption is that we never really developed the vocabulary and methods on designing processes for employees. And that's maybe also because our BPM-assignments never included employee experience. Sure, as any Lean expert will tell you: the employees ARE the process, so you need to involve them, empower them and support them to create a improvement culture. But that's just one part of employee engagement.

We live in a time where using design thinking, human centered design we learn more and more how to engage people with products and services. We learn about behavioral economics to influence behavior. And we research how to help people thrive with findings from positive psychology.
And how much of these methods and findings have entered the field of BPM? Lean? My assumption, based on keeping on track on most literature and websites is: surprisingly little.

My key question is this: is it possible, and if yes, in what way can we, process designers, help create working contexts that are desirable for employees, that engage, perhaps motivate or even increase happiness?

I think this question is very relevant. Mainly because I think it is a waste of precious lifetime to work in disengaging work contexts. It kills spirit and creates waves of negativity in our societies. And of course there are business stakes as well: low retention, not to speak of the consequences on customer experience and thus, profit.

That's why I have decided to start a research project into 'Human centered process design', focused on finding ways to help design processes and work environments that help people thrive. Tips and help very welcome! I assume (as always standing on the shoulders of giants) that must be current and earlier researchers on this question. My hope: to contribute to BPM & Lean with new vocabulary, inspiration and methods to help our world forward.