If there is one company known for extreme customer focus and excellent processes, then it is Amazon. The online book seller, turned ecommerce powerhouse, turned cloud infrastructure disruptor, turned world changer in so many fields, is an amazing success story. Amazon's shareholders have been very happy over the last couple of years, helping its founder and CEO Jeff Bezos become the second richest man in the world along the way.
Jeff's annual letters to shareholders always give an interesting insight into why Amazon outperforms everyone else in the market. This time, the letter was of particular interest to me, as he shared his thoughts on Process Management.
What is a good process? Here is what Jeff has to say:
Good process serves you so you can serve customers. But if you’re not watchful, the process can become the thing. This can happen very easily in large organizations. The process becomes the proxy for the result you want. You stop looking at outcomes and just make sure you’re doing the process right. Gulp. It’s not that rare to hear a junior leader defend a bad outcome with something like, “Well, we followed the process.” A more experienced leader will use it as an opportunity to investigate and improve the process. The process is not the thing. It’s always worth asking, do we own the process or does the process own us?
His thoughts are dear to my heart and nicely express how we at Signavio think about process.
A process never has an end in itself. Processes are not built to last. They are built to change. Actually, process is at the very heart of change, enabling a structured discussion about how we do things today and how we can improve going forward.
Jeff nicely points out that improvement ideas can emerge anytime and anywhere. It requires sensitivity to realize that a process change might be necessary and the courage to challenge the status quo. So, process and the willingness to change needs to be in the minds and hearts of everyone in the organization. A part of the DNA... and there must be mechanisms in place to let everyone contribute their best ideas, and improve the process wherever appropriate. That way, you can really own the process and avoid the process owning you.
Thanks, Jeff, for putting this topic center stage!
You can find the full letter here.