Process Attention


“There was a surfer about a hundred metres out to sea. The wind had really whipped up  and, despite the breath-taking scenery, I couldn’t take my eyes off her attempt to surf on  those dangerous waves! It was fascinating. I really wanted her to succeed but she kept falling in. I must have stood there for twenty minutes watching her, even though the wind  was chilling me through my thin jacket. Finally, she rode a wave and stayed on, almost all  the way to shore. I couldn’t help it. I cheered! Actually, I think I cried.”

In the business world, it is often those processes, which we can directly link to our goals, and objectives that take most of our attention. At the top of the organisation, senior managers will be most interested in the processes that contribute to strategic goals: Profitability, Market share, Turnover, Attracting new business, Quality, and so on.

In different parts of the organisation, the goals may be different and there may be a conflict between the strategic goals and ‘local’ goals. For example, logistics manager may focus only on those processes, which ensure a smooth flow of materials from through the process. A young manager seeking promotion may focus only on those process which show him or her in a favourable light to his or her bosses.

If we are trying to innovate a process, it makes sense to focus our attention on those processes, which, if innovated, will help us reach our goals. In a business, these should be linked to the critical success factors of the organisation. So, our attention should be drawn towards processes, which have an impact on:

– Profitability – we can ask: do the processes generate cost or add value?

– Customer satisfaction – do the processes add value to the customer or improve the customer’s experience of the product or service

– Quality – do the processes reduce or increase quality levels

And so on. Essentially, we direct our attention towards the processes, which help us focus the business towards the goals of efficiency and effectiveness because, just like the view we have of a natural landscape – we cannot have a detailed picture of everything at once!

Story time

All change at the theatre

ART (name changed) is a medium scale theatre based in the south east of England. After ten years of struggle and effort the business finally went into healthy profit, mainly through tight cost control and the success of their 250-seater basement cabaret bar as well as minor profitability in the upstairs theatre. There were all kinds of areas of potential innovation, including:

– The customer interface in the box office

– Management and administration processes

– Programming of performances

– Health and safety

– Use of the space during daytime

However, the attention of management was always drawn towards one process what was becoming critical to the success (or failure) of the business) – the repayment of a substantial loan taken out on purchase of the building. All profits were regularly swallowed up simply meeting interest payment on this loan. No national or regional funding or assistance was available to help them with this.

What do you think they did?

Here’s what they decided to do…

They decided to shut down the theatre for six months. No plays were produced or staged. Only the cabaret bar stayed open which made enough profits to pay off the mortgage entirely. There were staff costs in the rest of the building and box office reduced to a minimum. Costs of marketing the theatre upstairs also went to zero. It was a case of short-term pain for long term gain. They were able to ‘wipe the slate clean’. The innovation was negative in some ways but positive in that the business redefined itself in the short term as a highly profitable cabaret venue in order to wipe out its debt. Its attention was focused purely in its repayment process.

With the slate wiped clean it was able to re-open in the summer with a new programme of cabaret and theatre! New staff were taken on. One problem was the need to re-launch which had a fairly high cost and to take on new staff again.

A new innovation agenda emerged. Now no longer in debt the business now began to turn its attention to new investment possibilities in order to help the business grow and thrive in the future!


Visit the Innovation Realm

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