Saturday, May 13, 2006

How to manage complex responsive processes of relating?

Ralph Stacey’s well-known statement is “complex responsive processes of relating”. That includes three essential aspects for organizations' business processes:
  • Business processes are processes of relating. That is to say that all processes are always related to some other actor(s), e.g. other processes, customers or other stakeholders, etc. These other actors may be within the same organization or in other organizations. There are always both intended and unintended relationships, potentially even hostile actors.
  • Business processes respond to the needs and expectations from the related other actors. That is definitely the basic purpose of business processes.
  • Business processes are always complex because all details of needs and expectations, process activities, or relating features cannot be in full certainty defined or agreed. This aspect is particularly related to the multifarious characteristics of the process activities and related actors, especially due to human actions.

It is very easy to accept that really all business processes have these features. This is also reason to the major problem of process management. How to manage this kind of complex responsive processes of relating?

  • Management of the processes cannot be based on explicit information only with 100% certainty or agreement.
  • All processes include always some degree of risks on not fulfilling all needs and expectations.
  • Process activities or relating activities may develop towards chaos or anarchy.

In fact, processes include many different kinds of activities. From the management point of view, different activity categories may be described with “Stacey matrix” presentation.

One single business process may include activities representing all these different categories. One simple management approach is not sufficient to manage all differing features of a business process if you are really striving for an excellent process performance. Appropriate management actions should be selected based on the degree of certainty and level of agreement on the issue in question.

An effective management of complex responsive process of relating requires explicit consideration of the following three elements (Ref. Marian Naidoo):

  • Identity of the relating processes through identifying the set of characteristics by which a process is definitively recognizable. In practice that may be done by a systematic process plan. Process plan also identifies activities and human / automatic actors within the process.
  • Relationship of actors considering the level of agreement and degree of certainty according to the Stacey’s matrix. Also the balance and level of win / win is important for relationship realization.
  • Communication between actors that may be open, restricted, or fuzzy. Of course completely closed communication cannot be case of business processes.

If the relating processes are not clearly identified (process plans), the situation fall into pieces of interacting process-internal actors, and even may develop towards chaos or anarchy.

In our process networks, there may be also unknown (see process X in the fugure) and even hostile processes.


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