Process work is a team sport

It is not a radical news that it is of utmost importance that organizations understand their processes and how process steps affect each other. Although individual process steps are optimized, sub-optimizations are stubbornly recurring. This means that once again it is emphasized how important it is to take into account both the previous steps and the subsequent steps, as well as overall process goals, when one wants to analyze and improve one's business.

Sport is often a grateful comparison to highlight organizational problems, not only because it is run in team form and permeated by a fighting spirit that organizations dream of being able to transfer to an organizational culture, but also because it is a brilliant social example of where collaboration is not only works but is relatively optimized. Take the baton as an example. In the Relay Shipyard (part of the Gothenburg Shipyard), five runners ran four kilometers each through the Slottsskogen. Say that the relay team's common goal was to move the baton 20 kilometers in 2 hours, then each individual runner must run 4 kilometers in an average of 24 minutes. How successful would the relay team be if the runners only optimized their own process steps, without looking at the whole process? Some runners might stay on the 4-kilometer track, without ensuring that the baton was handed over to subsequent runners. Another runner might start running exactly 24 minutes after the previous runner, without receiving the baton.

In the world of sports, something like that may seem completely unlikely, but in many organizations it often happens that unsuccessful handovers and unfulfilled process goals are blamed on the previous process steps. In the case of the runners, of course, it is easy to blame the one who ran away too early, although in this case it is quite obvious that there is a shared responsibility for the process, which becomes even more difficult when the handovers are not physical and also has a temporal delay. In a relay, a direct delivery confirmation is also given, but imagine what it would look like if the runners put down the baton on the 4-kilometer line and then let the receiving runners pick up the best they want! If the common goal is to move the baton 20 kilometers in 2 hours, it does not matter how fast the baton runs if they do not bring the baton.

The example illustrates that a handover is as much about receiving as handing over and that communication and feedback between process steps are crucial to a good result. But can you in any way secure a handover? One way might be to introduce a control function. However, control processes can in many cases be seen as an extra step rather than an aid to save time and increase quality later in the process. If the relay team had a supervisor responsible for handing the relay stick from one runner to another, it would probably be better than in the example described above, but in this particular case it is probably still better to put the control responsibility on the performers, ie. runners.

We are convinced that the most important factor for successful handover is to create a common understanding of how the overall process looks and how the various process steps contribute to the overall goal. The participants / employees themselves should be motivated to pay attention and take action when handovers fail. They may also need to be provided with tools and mandates to gradually change their actions and approach the goal. So whatever it may seem, we will, with tireless energy and dedication, continue to help our customers to map, develop and communicate about processes, thereby helping to create the winning team.