Like Taylor, the overriding concern of today's process management ideologues is productivity and efficiency. They too believe that everything can and should be made explicit, rigorously measured and ultimately reduced to an algorithm. Unfortunately, the process management "jihadists," like other more nefarious groups before them, have hijacked a good idea and turned it into a weapon to terrorize organizations into ever increasing performance improvement.
Don't get me wrong. Process management is often necessary and frequently productive when properly balanced with other factors such as the social and emotional aspects of work. The danger occurs when process management becomes the dominant ideology of the organization. When that happens, look out – any spirit, passion and soul that exists in an organization is at risk of being systematically and ruthlessly squeezed out. Many process management junkies pay lip service to things like trust, social capital and knowledge. Some like All-World management guru Michael Hammer – the Edwards Deming of the process management movement – almost entirely ignore the human aspects of performance, seeing these as the responsibility of "change management." They seem to believe that people are no different than machines and will automatically follow instructions that are rationally designed, efficient and clearly communicated. But process thinking when taken to the extreme is dehumanizing – after all the best way to achieve absolute non-variable process performance is to completely remove human beings through automation.
The truth is businesses need both process AND passion. Process management is a good tool but a bad ideology. Too much emphasis on process eventually kills the passion that fuels inspiration, imagination and daring – precisely the things that are desperately needed by organizations seeking to innovate and transform how they do business. This is the biggest weakness of process management ideology – it is totally incompatible with the mindset needed to create new ideas and innovations. As America's corporate agenda shifts again toward growth, the emphasis on process management will begin to recede. Let's hope so – since everyone and their brother is counting on the US economy's legendary ability to innovate to create the millions of new jobs we now need to replace those eliminated or sent overseas by process management advocates.