Where should I be working?

Several people I know have been “in transition” lately. That means they are changing jobs. This post is going to take a different turn on the kind of advice I would give one of my clients looking for a new place to work. Culture is king, we know it eats strategy for breakfast and all that, but there is an underlying factor in corporate culture… it’s called “standard work” or “work process”. The level of maturity an organization has toward processes is an underlying fundamental shaper of what it’s like to work there. Early in my career as a consultant I was wooed by a large insurance company to join their ranks. After a leisurely lunch at their private club room we retired to another room for brandy and cigars. It was one of the most frightening days of my career. And, I didn’t even know about processes in those days!

We can assess ‘process maturity”. The purpose of this assessment is to first do a global assessment of the organization in terms of its maturity for understanding and improving processes before deciding you want to join them. The four levels described in this assessment are standard change model descriptions.

Instructions: Think about the organization as a whole and read about the four maturity levels (M1-M4) for process maturity and rate where you think this organization is currently. And, then you can consider “is this the right place for me?”

  Maturity Level   Process Status   Process Improvement
    A lot of chaos   We don’t need them
    Work is flexible   Start to introduce the
  basic ideas of processes
  M-1 Blissful ignorance   Procedures not
  Do process training
    Work is driven in ad-hoc,
  uncontrolled reactive
  Identify key processes
      Start with core ones

The M1 ‘blissfully ignorant’ organization is basically unaware of processes and how they function. It can be fun and exciting in these places. They don’t think about work as a series of steps that can be organized and controlled and done the same way time and time again. There is no knowledge of how variation effects quality or customer satisfaction. Work is largely intuitive and reactive, there is a lot of firefighting and reacting to events and situations as they occur. Most organizations, public and private in America are at this first stage of maturity when it comes to understanding work processes. They are, in effect, unconsciously incompetent, blissfully ignorant of the power and value of process management. The remedy is to move to stage M2 with basic process training.

  Maturity Level   Process Status   Process Improvement
    A lot of griping   Why do we need this?
    Some processes are
  Defining processes
  M-2 This is a lot of work   No process discipline   Some process measures
    A lot of variation in core
  work processes
  Process maps are made
    Still reactive culture   Pockets of excellence
    Awareness growing   Leadership support is
    Pick key processes to
  Study and map key

The M2 organization is going through the painful stage of starting to learn about processes and how they function. There is a lot of griping, “this is hard work.” There is some knowledge of how variation effects quality or customer satisfaction. A few key processes have been identified, and teams have been formed to study and improve some processes. Certain parts of the organization are leading the process improvement effort, but it is not yet fully deployed and accepted throughout the organization. Work is still largely intuitive and reactive. There is still a debate about the value and usefulness of processes. The organization is, in effect, now consciously incompetent, aware of how much work it takes to study a process, get measures and make real changes. The remedy is to move to stage M3 with more leadership training on process improvement and additional process training.

  Maturity Level   Process Status   Process Improvement
    I own it   Let’s improve it
    All the core work
  processes are
  Processes are being
  M-3 Owning the
  Process discipline   Process measures in
    Less variation in core
  work processes
  All employees involved
    Measures in place   Deployment has
    Awareness growing   Leadership support is
    Process improvement
  cycles are starting
  A little support is still

The M3 organization is now mature enough to study and manage work processes throughout the organization. Process improvement is no longer just the job of a few leaders and a small number of teams, everyone in the organization has been involved in studying and improving work processes. There is still some doubt and lack of confidence about making process management a way of life, some people are still cautious contributors to the effort. However, the process improvement effort is now fully deployed and largely accepted throughout the organization. There is an increased awareness of the importance of customer facing processes and the voice of the process in terms of customer satisfaction. The organization is, in effect, now consciously competent, making steady improvements in processes, but it must plan and manage the process improvement effort. The remedy is to move to stage M4 where process improvement becomes a way of doing business and is no longer just a program.

  Maturity Level   Process Status   Process Improvement 
    All work is a process   Continuous
    Processes are mature
  and continuously
  Sharing learnings of
   M-4 We got this   Process discipline   Integrating processes
    A lot of innovation in core
  work processes
  Processes self-optimizing
    Strong culture of
  Continuous improvement
  Suppliers involved too
    Support processes also
  Leadership support is
      Culture of high

The M4 organization is mature in understanding and improving processes and has gone from simple “picket fence” alignment to “cyclone fence” integration of continuously improving processes and how they function. All key processes have been improved with multiple improvement cycles. There is a climate of learning and sharing from process improvement work in one part of the organization to the rest of the organization. There is no lingering debate about the value and usefulness of processes. The organization is, in effect, now unconsciously competent, self-optimizing through process improvement. They are in control. The remedy is to maintain stage M4 with a culture reinforcing efforts to continuously innovate and look for ways to do things faster, with less waste and higher quality for customers.

Why is it important to consider the process maturity of a company before you join it? If you want happiness and joy, check out the place before you join it. We all have a different ‘model of the world’, a unique viewpoint on how things should be. These are basic human needs. Some of us are chaos monkeys (M1) and others are control freaks (M4), and most of us are somewhere in between these two extremes. Small entrepreneurial organizations are exciting and changing rapidly. Large well-established places are humming along like a well-tuned timepiece. What kind of person are you? It really will determine how well you adjust and fit into any company. That insurance company that bored me might be just the ticket for someone needing predictability and control in their life.