The second dimension of the change: change the processes
The second step to develop shared and participatory management’ companies is the change of the business processes. The new organisational models create the necessary context to implement these changes successfully.
A well-known definition of the term process says: it is a set of activities and decisions performed in different and connected areas aimed at the achievement of a business objective.
The processes are transversal to the organisation and therefore they have important consequences:
- Single processes become “micro-organisations” inside the company with customers, suppliers, resources to be used and objectives to be realised;
- Decision processes are more decentralised;
- The strict separation fails between departments, units and roles;
- The reached results are measurable and are periodically controlled;
- People work in teams and are all involved in the management of an entire segment of process.
A well-managed process works as a relay race: the winning team it is not the one with the quickest runners of all, but that one which is more efficient in the phases of passage of the baton. If everyone runs for himself, nobody wins. The integration of the different activities determines the performance of the process and therefore the responsibility of the final result is shared by everyone.
For example, in the development processes of new products, integration means to:
- Operate in an inter-functional and multidisciplinary way;
- Move up the commitments produced by consecutive phases;
- Act in an activity temporal overlapping;
- Check all the performances during the entire process;
- Collect experiences in the process;
- Have an overall vision of the process;
- Develop mutual trust between colleagues in order to make decisions even when information is incomplete;
- Work in team;
- Know and understand language, mentality and culture of the other functions.
The passage from traditional “tall and narrow” organisations to those based on processes has been facilitated by the diffusion of new information systems which allowed a faster and more efficient spread of the information. For many years, information had to be collected, elaborated and distributed by specialized staffs and by the middle management. In this way information were spread in the organisation following the hierarchical chain. Nowadays, computer systems reduce the importance of this kind of intermediation.
When companies introduce in an integrated way the management by processes within the new organizational contexts and the new technologies, the way of working change and the productivity increases. The global innovation challenge, in which all the competitive companies are involved, has speed up these changes.
In the traditional organizational models every worker had few activities to carry out according to a precise, prearranged order; instead, in the new production processes (smart manufacturing) every worker:
- Carries out a plurality of activities;
- Has more discretion in the choice of the operative modalities of his own work;
- Carries out often the controls in an autonomous way in order to avoid that defective elements or inaccurate information continue in the process.
The role of the worker is that of making decisions and solving new problems thanks to the availability of new data provided by the new information systems to which he/she has access. For instance, workers, specialists and experts often solve complex problems working in team.
For example, in the Maserati’s factory in Grugliasco the organizational focal point lies on lower hierarchical level compared to what happened until some years ago. The team leader is the focal point on which the whole organization is based. The team leader is responsible of a phase of the production line: he/she coordinates six collaborators, takes part in the planning of the activities with the engineers and executives in order that the assembly is more efficient, faster and easier from the ergonomic point of view.
In the new productive processes, the nature of the roles change. The new roles are no more strictly defined and restricted, but they are open since they are based on:
- The increase of the decisional autonomy of the employees;
- The shared and participatory management of measurable results to achieve;
- Processes and work contents can continuously be improved;
- Ability of managing collaborative relations with new technologies;
- Having high technical and social competences (e.g. relations between colleagues, partners and managers) necessary to work with innovative technologies.
shared and participatory management’ organisations have an additional feature: they promote the entrepreneurship. It is a type of entrepreneurship that expresses itself within the companies and therefore all people must have the responsibility to:
- Identify the innovative opportunities of the processes, products and services;
- Be the “entrepreneur of yourself”: everyone makes decisions within a network of interconnected people thanks to a set of technologies mainly consisting of computers, software and nowadays also robots.
Managers must change the style of management and mentality: they have to delegate, tolerate attempts and mistakes in the innovative processes, share information.
In Cnh, a leader company in the production of tractors, a team of engineers, technicians and workers of Modena’s factory realised an improvement opportunity in the quality of motors. They analysed costs and benefits and then carried out the necessary changes after having obtained the necessary resources by the responsible of the factory. Particularly, a team of young engineers designed a new gearbox making the driving of the tractor easier and reducing the costs of use. The procurement process, logistics, quality controls and obviously the assembly line have been modified to produce the new gearbox.
In the organisations with shared and participatory management, the meaning of professionalism changes. The majority of workers gained the knowledge worker features: knowledge experts working on computer machines in order to control the productive processes. The greater complexity requires at the same time specialized competences, multidisciplinarity and ability to integrate people.
Therefore, a competent person is the one who:
- Proves to be able to successfully carry out an action, but also to understand why and how he has to act;
- Is able to make decisions involving his collaborators;
- Is able to manage his/her staff resources and those who are entrusted;
- Looks for complementary resources;
- In able to transfers the competences developed in other contexts;
- Shares what has learnt with his colleagues.
In order to create shared and participatory management’ organisations, not only the operational processes have to change, but also people’s management processes. A first modality to promote new behaviours is the assignment of common purposes. Here some examples implemented by great companies:
- Those who work in the production processes, purchase and product development have the same quality product objectives;
- The responsible of the development of a new car model is also responsible of the customers satisfaction;
- When a team achieves the established objectives, it is the whole team which receive a monetary prize or a special reward.
Some companies encourage the purchase of stocks and shares at a favoured price for all the employees or give employees financial bonuses when business objectives have been reached. This approach arose in the United States, but soon spread also in the European countries.
The monetary incentives are used to increase the fix or variable part of the salaries and pays for those who reach and overcome the established purposes. The rewarding incentive represents one of the most effective incentives useful to promote and spread new behaviours in the whole organisation.
But this is not the only possible way. Here there are the other opportunities to speed up the implementation of shared and participatory management’ organisations:
- Promote those who have inter-functional experiences and/or careers;
- Encourage the self-candidacy to products/processes innovative projects;
- Modify the selection criteria for new employees.
A recruitment based only on the research of technical abilities is coherent with traditional organisations; instead, a recruitment based also on the behavioural abilities is coherent with flat, slim and process organisations.
All these actions have the same purpose: to develop people having at the same time a systemic view of the company and knowing the details of the main business processes in order to work efficiently with other colleagues.
But, companies are not always aware of the importance of another incentive: learning and training. In the great companies there is a long-life learning.
Each person, with the support of the company, shares the responsibility both to update the competences in which he/she stands out and to fill the gap between his/her competences and those required in order to carry out in the best way as possible his activities. The training occurs on the job (for instance, through the participation to a work team in which take part different business functions, through the rotation on different work positions also of supervision ones), in classroom and through e-learning.
The learning must have not only a “technic-professional” content aimed at updating and/or increasing the specialised competences, but also transversal competences (or soft skills) necessary in order to communicate, work in teams and solve problems and conflicts in an efficient way.
General Electric is testing the virtual and augmented reality in order to train the employees who must make decisions and carry out maintenance activities in complex factories or in potentially dangerous situations, such as power stations.
The abilities to share information, manage relations with collaborators and make decisions in a participative way are conditions aimed at assuming growing responsibilities. The training must involve all the employees: managers, executives and workers and sometimes also suppliers. To neglect one of these members means weaken the strength of the message.