This is where big companies and organizations usually lose it. This is where they substitute “process” and programs—using 20th-century Human Resources theory—for authentic relationships and community. Process in a company or other organization (retail or otherwise) is a design for activities—rules for getting things to happen and, theoretically, for getting something accomplished. “Process” is often accompanied by a flow chart.
For example, say your job responsibility includes bringing a new product to market. A design process can be helpful. But then there are initial meetings with everyone involved in the business to review an analysis of the past performance of similar products. And then come follow-up meetings to review the first and subsequent meetings. Plus the need for approval from the “chain of command” responsible for the product-development process.
In its worst form, process involves collecting criticism, random input, and opinions from everyone, no matter how remotely they are connected to the product. The upshot is: if the design process is too analytical and rigid, it will stifle the very people who are directly responsible for it.
Mervyn’s had great processes, beautiful flow charts, and many long meetings with lots of people to review everything they did or thought about doing, or to strategize further about their processes. The trouble was, it fell flat. People could see that there was a lack of authenticity and honesty. One process, designed to support a sense of ‘teamwork,” was to give recognition awards for length of service. There would be a meeting with 200-plus employees, and the president would hand people a certificate for length of service—5, 10, 15 years, etc. —and then everyone would applaud. But at the back of the room, out of earshot from those on the stage, people would be cracking jokes and making fun of the whole thing. Saying things like, “I’m surprised he made it this long, ha ha.” When people are not taking the process seriously, then something is wrong. The effort to put People First falls flat.