michael hammer is wrong? roles and responsibilities

Org charts are typically 2D with solid and dotted lines. I tend to think of them as 3D.

I am reading a book by Michael Hammer called, Faster, Cheaper, Better. The book is good and has very good material thus far. However, I did find one point to be slightly debateable.While discussing the WHO portion (who should do the work) in the first chapters, he argues that we should create the work by the position and not so much the individual.

In his book, he states, “The most common change that results from process redesign is who does what work and how they work with others. One of the big mistakes made in answering the question of who does what work is to craft a process around a specific person rather than around what the job is. It’s very easy to fall into that trap. Who should do inventory management? Well Harry has been doing it for years, he’s the logical choice. Harry may have superlative skills in that position – or he may be parked there because he isn’t good at anything else. Whatever the case, the job is built around Harry’s abilities (or lack thereof), not around how the job relates to everything else in the process. Maybe the where part of that job should change, which in effect will also change the who part of the job. Don’t’ be forced into building rework loops into the process just to accommodate a given individual. In process redesign there should be no sacred cows or favored individuals.”

Now, before the groupies come out and beat me – I want to be clear and say that there is truth in his statement. I am afraid, though, that just by reading this without thinking entirely through the application incorrect conclusions could be made. The scenario above has several different possibilities and countering concepts which would lead to this going multiple directions. Let us first consider an individual like Harry, who has been placed in the position and tasks created due to being incompetent. It is common that when people who are favored reach their Peter’s Principle plateau – assume the “catch all” position. Miscellaneous tasks, including the things they are good at, are located into the position which may or may not make sense. In this application, I truly believe that Mr. Hammer is right. The rework and extra nonsensical steps to make this process work can lead to more harm than good.

The next view, is one that I struggle with at first, but realized by trial and error worked better. Now that is not to say in your organization that the role and responsibilities should align. There is some good thoughts against promoting a task to a certain group or position especially if you are standardizing within the organization. This can be a challenging time if the new assignment is given to the current incumbent. As an example I know of a company where when starting to have champions for roles, assigned them to certain groups. I discussed the champion concept in a previous post called “Lean Champions and the Pyramid Effect.”

So for an exact example, consider 5S and having a champion for that initiative. The leader would be best suited, by nature of the process, to be someone around safety. Many organizations will have an EHS (environmental health and safety) or Safety Manager the leader of that group. 5S, or 6S to be more modern, if done properly will have safety tied to it. There is a valid connection – but is it right to force that connection? What if there is an experienced manager or supervisor (or team member) that has more experience and/or much more passion about that topic. Is it in the best interest of the company to move towards every 5S Champ must be the EHS Manager – or is the motivated skilled other candidate a more viable option? I cannot answer that question for you, but I can create the point where I propose that it is our duty to do what is best for the company. In the example(s) above, I believe it is for the best suit for the company to create the Champion which will get the more value and give the best ROI. If the EHS manager were to come open and 5S is still a major part of your office/company strategy it may be time to hire someone which has that skill set. I do not, in either case, accept that a one-size-fits-all model is the best option. For further discussion I would also propose that the position should make sense for the sake of buy-in, credibility as well as availability. If the perfect skilled candidate with an eager attitude for an OEE inititive happens to be a Nurse with lots of previous operational background – this may be a bit too much of a stretch to make work or grasp. The wastes created to make this work may nullify the benefits that would be received, which goes back to the ROI of the situation.

Lastly it should be noted that Mr. Hammer does make a small clause to his statement which indicates that during the process redesign it may be in the best interest of the company to re-define roles which may mean that the assignment lay outside of normal boundaries, that is, until they boundaries are altered. During the process of moving the marks for expectation it is most likely that the individual in the position will take on some responsibilities and shed others, thus changing the WHERE portion.

I think that the original intention of the quoted paragraph from Michael Hammer’s book is to ensure that we are developing people and positions strategically and to not create a catch-all position or force something to fit in favor of one vs. the many.
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