Ingo Kallenbach

When are processes healthy?

A Healthy Organisation (HO) is characterized by solid economic results, suitable processes within the overall organization and a healthy climate. Ultimately it is about the interaction and the balance of the different parameters strategy, structure and culture. Processes play a decisive role in this. Everyone is familiar with examples from his/her own professional experience in which processes were not clearly defined or overregulated. Both features can demotivate, frustrate, slow down the organization, make value creation inefficient, and usually also decrease quality. Successful processes, on the other hand, create a necessary level of standardisation and associated therewith efficiency and quality. Despite all the criticism regarding Tayloristic methods (also refer to the book recommendation in these Notes) the movement around F. W. Taylor must be credited with the fact that it enabled economies of scale by means of clearly defined production processes, that at the time strongly contributed to the successful beginnings of industrialisation. At the latest since Paracelsus we know as well, however, that merely the dosis is decisive of whether something is toxic or not. It is all about a healthy balance between process adherence and flexibility, effectivity and efficiency, momentum and external control. Processes in an HO should be kept lean. Similar to the size of your waist, that from a certain degree on can become a risk to your health, organisational processes can become unhealthy as well. If you now think back to the beginnings of “lean production“, you are on quite the right track: Lean production, particularly enabled by continuous improvement (Kaizen), flat hierarchies, work in networks and the avoidance of resources and mistakes (muda). But here as well weakness have become apparent over the last two decades: When (personnel) resources are insufficiently calculated, when an extremely high appropriateness on the employee side is necessary for the implementation, when all buffers (time, logistics, materials) are eliminated, when overburdening due to high process pressure and flexibility occurs, then there is the danger of exaggeration. Even the slimmest waist can then become the symptom of an impending cachexia. The fact that optimisation possibilities particularly in the production range reach their limits and consequently manufacturing companies expect to obtain always more efficiency via a strong network along the entire value creation chain (see e.g. Chick, Huchzermeier & Netessine 2014 in HBR 05/14) also is a sign of the outlined development. Thus, the conclusion is: Lean, yes - but within a healthy, viable range.