Critical Influence™: Business Processes

What are business processes?

business processes are the series of activities taken to achieve a business goalBy working at a company, you’ve certainly been involved in a business process. In the corporate world, it is one of the most used terms. But what exactly does it mean and how significant is it for organizations?

Business processes are commonly referred to as the series of steps or activities taken to achieve an ultimate business goal. It is also described as the processes that employees execute to operate a business and deliver value to the clientele. In this sense, organizations cannot exist without implementing processes.

Organizations who dive deeper into the intricacies of this common business term understand that business processes are more than a chain of actions. Its all-encompassing essence is seen in business units working together to attain a desirable result. This characterizes a business process that does not create silos. 

What is a silo and how do organizational silos affect change initiatives? Read on.


As part of the 15 Critical Influences™, this page on Business Processes is integrated with actual content from the book Innovations in Office Design: The Critical Influence Approach to Effective Work Environments™ by SCG Founder Diane Stegmeier.


How silos in an organization impact the implementation of a new workplace strategy

Historically, organizations have demonstrated business processes that are linear, meaning a customer’s request is transferred from one department to another. This type of workflow restricts information sharing and is often magnified when departmental silos exist. 

Silos develop when individuals in departments consider themselves as separate teams or entities and fail to collaborate with each other, which may result in withheld information that is vital in resolving customer concerns. It obstructs business operations and prevents the organization from reaching specific goals.

Today, this is often a business driver for why companies are redesigning their physical workplace to a more collaborative office environment.

Many workplace solutions are developed to support changing business processes, such as a switch to team settings instead of a linear, assembly-line style of work. The idea is that with an improved workplace that enables cross-functional teamwork, various business units would find it easier to share important information and process requests more efficiently.

However, even when presented with an optimistic change, employees may still find it hard to accept a possible disruption to a familiar routine. Resistance arises when employees fear the new process and prefer to maintain the “old” way of doing things because of their comfort with the status quo.

With that challenge in mind, it is critical for employees to understand the intent and purpose of the change being introduced and what will be expected of them. 

It is also important to examine the other elements of the Critical Influence System when trying to improve business processes through a workplace transformation. If left unchecked, other influences can come into active play and render change initiatives ineffective.

How other Critical Influences™ affect a new workplace strategy that aims to improve business processes

As you learn more about the Critical Influences System, you will also realize the interrelatedness between its elements and how each of them should be taken into account when managing workplace change. 

In the context of organizing business processes, Critical Influences such as technology and culture can directly affect the initiative.

For instance, if the technology required to allow employees immediate access to shared electronic files is not in place, or if the culture is not centered on teamwork and collaboration, though the cross-functional staff members may be physically colocated within a shared space in the office, the business process may continue to be carried out as it was prior to implementation of the new workplace strategy. 

Holding onto a customer’s files by an employee until his or her individual tasks are completed, before passing on information to a teammate, signals the organization that the team may need training in working collaboratively. 

As an example, let’s take a look at the experience of Bill Weldon and LaVerne Council at Johnson & Johnson. The story of their initiative, which was elaborated in our Technology post, illustrated how the corporation leveraged electronic tools to quickly tap into the specialized knowledge of its scientific staff members. Another aspect of their strategy had to do with accelerating the speed of business process completion to create a competitive advantage in the field of drug discovery. 

Weldon emphasized the importance of making a paradigm shift in light of the company’s acquisition of Pfizer Consumer Healthcare. That shift had to expand beyond the internal company boundaries to the external environment, and incorporate what the enterprise brings to the consumer. 

Council explained that technology is not the competitive advantage for Johnson & Johnson; rather, it is the company’s intellectual capital that is its differentiating advantage. The technology can enable differentiators the closer one gets to the customer, which is where an organization needs the competitive advantage. 

accelerated speed of business processes is critical in particular professional fieldsIn the field of drug discovery, accelerated speed in performing business processes is critical to becoming the “first to market” with a medical breakthrough. Streamlined business processes thus can result in a competitive advantage. 

Business processes necessary in improving existing drugs and inventing new ones have historically been time-consuming, when conducted manually and in linear steps. Using advanced technology, processes can be expedited greatly. Clinical trials can be completed faster, and digital signatures to the Food and Drug Administration can supplant the submission of truckloads of paperwork mandatory for FDA approval.

Just keep in mind, as the research study on the Critical Influence System™ proved, if the physical workplace is designed so that people must work in departmental silos, isolated from others involved in a mission-critical process, no matter how good the technology, it may not be fully optimized. 

A workplace strategy that colocates cross-functional team members involved in time-sensitive business processes would benefit those accountable for the on-time completion of individual steps in the respective processes. 

A given member of the workgroup would then be able to recognize when a colleague was struggling with an issue, and be able to offer immediate assistance, thereby preventing delays in the workflow. Such time savings could make the difference between the enterprise being first to market with a new drug discovery or being left behind by the competition.

Evaluating business processes in light of a workplace transformation

Organizational transformations do not happen overnight. They require companies to take a systematic approach to change in order to stay focused on the goal at hand. To identify areas that need improvement, organizations must evaluate their existing systems, especially their business processes.

As an example, let’s take a look at an organizational transformation at the Cleveland Clinic, a client Stegmeier Consulting Group has worked with on a number of projects. In looking for ways to improve the quality of care delivered to patients, the world-renowned hospital system engaged SCG for our expertise in change management. 

One of the Clinic’s divisions—Real Estate, Design/Planning, Construction, Facilities & Media Operations—was a complex, highly decentralized enterprise that wished to increase accountability. While this group rarely interacts with patients directly, the services they provide unquestionably have a massive impact on the experience of visitors and, in turn, the public’s perception of the Clinic.

For instance, if a light fixture burnt out in a parking garage, the facilities team would need to quickly fix it to keep visitors feeling safe.  With multiple structural improvement projects taking place, the construction group had to manage access, scheduling, and overall sound levels to minimize the impact on the purposeful tranquility the Clinic prides itself in offering patients. 

Additionally, the many video monitors that adorned circulation areas fell under the purview of the media operations team. This group was responsible for rectifying the frequent screen outages, on top of producing engaging content to appear on the monitors.  In short, the division we worked with was responsible for a lot and juggled many moving pieces.

Scheduling and delegation of work was a challenge due to the organization’s reporting structure. Shift changes (24 hour coverage was needed on some units) were done with little communication regarding priorities.  As such the Clinic wanted to explore transitioning this division from a traditional, siloed set of entities to a matrix organization that would see employees roll up to a direct shift supervisor.  

In this arrangement, the supervisor would be more responsive and have a better pulse on the immediate needs of the Clinic. This arrangement would contrast the current scenario where a supervisor is simply a more senior version of an employee with a specific skill/role (think an electrician or painter), but may not be available to give guidance or answer questions until the following work day due to the shift differential.

To lay the groundwork for the business unit’s transformation, SCG designed an approach that was aligned with the overall enterprise’s goals to serve patients Faster, Better, and with Less Cost. The initiative’s key areas of focus included the improvement of process efficiencies.

Along with understanding the reporting structures and performance management system, our consultants studied the division’s business processes. The analysis included workflow and work task observations. To see what was working and what was not, and to determine any bottlenecks that were slowing down efficiency, our team conducted a series of one-on-one interviews.

By leading an intensive data gathering process, SCG was able to identify points for improvement and present a comprehensive recommendation report. Cleveland Clinic was given quantifiable and qualifiable data on alternatives for consideration over a multiple-year time period, including restructuring to a matrix organization with clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations for accountability.

Consulting services to help you align your business processes with your new workplace strategy

Along with a new workplace strategy comes the need to look into your business processes. Will you face resistance from employees who are afraid of going out of their comfort zones? How will you communicate these concepts to your employees and help them understand why a change is necessary? You’re not alone! Get started with us by filling out the form below.