Organizational Processes for Leaders

Whether you are in the education field, the information technology field, the engineering field, a start-up, established company, or a non-profit, it is critical that you and your team identify the organizational processes necessary to reach your vision, purpose, and values. A great exercise to conduct with your leadership team is Top-Line/Bottom-Line Process activities. Thinking in a whole systems way is complicated, the participants will need time to understand and think more broadly, but the results will take your team to new levels of high performance.

The strategy is based on The Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge; In Search of Excellence by Thomas Peters, and Managing the Edge by Richard Pascale.

Think of your processes as divided into two categories: Top-Line processes of People, Public Image, and Performance, and Bottom-Line processes of Planning, Prioritization, and Production. To truly reach potential, your team must leverage these processes together as a set of core activities that are integrated and flow into each other to achieve desired results.

Bottom-Line processes (Planning, Prioritization, Production) are those shaped mostly by operational and financial considerations. These are those typically focused on by organizations and teams since they form what is traditionally thought of as strategic planning. Yet, it is the Top-Line Processes that propel a team or organization to greatness because these are the integrative processes that nurture the aliveness and vitality of the individuals in the organization. A team or organization is only as great as its members. Great teams and organizations are living systems with a variety of processes that are inter-related; and, they have a very dynamic quality. Consequently, there is need for focus, discussion, feedback, systems thinking, and reflection-a cycle of continuous improvement.

If we think of human body processes, it becomes clear how processes contribute and integrate to allow us to function and live. The circulatory, digestive, and nervous systems must all work together in a process. Organizations and teams must do so as well. The Top and Bottom-line processes must work together to achieve mission, vision, and value.

Work with your team to brainstorm what the Bottom-Line processes would ideally include if they were completely support your vision and mission. This will take several iterations and you may need to create break-out groups and gallery walks if your team is large. It is important that participants provide enough description for their ideas to create an image of what is included in it. Where possible. Identify the key sub-processes that need focused attention. Rewrite ideas ensuring they are clear to everyone. Repeat for Top-Line processes. Finally, for each of the processes, ask your team, which are more internally focused and stable, and which are more outward looking and adaptable. To reach your vision, do you need more internal-focus or outward-focus?

Top-Line processes are critical since those allow a team or organization to renew itself, continuously improve, and provide feedback throughout the organization. Spending time thinking in a systems and process-oriented way provides insight and value helping you lead to achieve results and outcomes.

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