Organizations exist to exchange value with customers and other stakeholders - that’s strategy. They do this via a series of coordinated activities across a number of functional elements of the organization - that’s a process. It makes sense to optimize these processes so that they satisfy the requirements of customers and other stakeholders - that’s process improvement. Taking a coordinated view of the performance of all of the processes by which an organization exchanges value, optimizes performance - that’s process management. Process management allows organizations to focus on activities that create the value exchange outcomes described by the strategy - that’s execution.
That’s good theory, but the practice is often not quite so fruitful. Discovering the strategy and documenting the processes can be challenging; even more difficult though is to make them effective management tools for strategic and operational decision making. Strategy is executed via business processes. For the ‘process pathway’ to be effective, there must a smooth flow from strategy to day-to-day process performance management, and back.
For many organizations, and their teams and people, there is a significant disconnect between strategy and process, between the mission-vision-values statements or their equivalents and the business process pathways that operationalize the strategy. Strategy development is inherently a top-down activity. Business process management and improvement is often conducted in a bottom-up or middle-out fashion. With the strategic view ‘coming down’ and the process view ‘going up’, there is a real chance that both fade to gray before they meet. In the resulting ‘gray zone’ the strategy loses its clarity and purpose, and process activity fails to coalesce into holistic management practice.
Too many organizations end up with (at least) two seemingly unrelated conceptual views of the enterprise: the strategy, perhaps with strategy themes and a strategy map, and the process view shaped asvalue chains, process hierarchies and detailed models. Nice PowerPoint, love the artwork — but no practical support for organizational performance improvement and innovation aspirations.
Developing a more coherent view of the inter-relationships between strategy and process makes it much more likely that the strategy will be executed and the processes will be effectively managed.