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Prepare process applications for future success

March 2, 2020
Prepare and build for what's coming—if you care

Doing more with less always sounds good, until it goes beyond efficiency, gets out of hand, and becomes a cover for exploiting employees, gouging clients and neglecting resources, capabilities and assets. If lean and mean turns into stretching operations and other staff so thin that they're barely able to keep up with production and put out only the most immediate fires, then there's little or no time for identifying addressing longer-term problems that could be more serious if left untreated. Likewise, severe time restrictions can also choke off the chance to innovate, and come up with more useful solutions.

However, there's at least one other less well-known, but equally crucial endeavor that gets hobbled when personnel are stretched too thin—developing rookies, so they can become veterans, creating a succession plan for the organization, and otherwise planning for the future. While longer-term difficulties usually get addressed when applications run to failure, it's apparently become rare to prepare process applications and facilities ahead of time to give next-generation staff and clients the best chance for success.

In several recent interviews, I've observed a common thread expressed by several sources that they don't have the time to prepare their organizations, applications and colleagues for the future because they're so preoccupied with the present that they can't step back and get a better perspective on what they all might need. This is doubly unfortunate because the ability to establish best practices is especially crucial during times of great technological change, when the gaps between using new methods for the first time and becoming expert as them are widest and most frequent.

Without an effective way to pass on necessary skills, users and managers risk having to repeatedly reinvent the wheel, and suffer all the inefficiencies that accompany it.

Why do succession planning and even basic training fall through the cracks, despite their huge benefits? Well, the time constraints I've already mentioned play a role, but they appear to be compounded and cemented in place by ego, and the fact that many practitioners believe—or want to believe—that their organizations can't do without them. Best practices don't get distributed because many experts jealously hoard their skills in an effort to be viewed as indispensable by their organizations. They view their exclusive abilities as job security, and see any dissemination of their skills as diluting that security and their prestige.

Similar to many students, I didn't understand what the Shakespeare play King Lear was all about when I was young. However, now that I'm much older it gets more true, penetrating and applicable with every passing minute. Just another classic drama to approach with extreme caution, particularly because it gets staged and restaged so often. I think Anthony Hopkins remade it as a movie just recently.

So what's to be done? How do we overcome shortages of time and an overabundance of self importance?

Well, there are always opportunities to take a deep breath, shed some conceits, recognize connections with others, and empathize with the less experienced individuals. It's understandable that people can't conceive that their organizations or the world can go on without them. However, once we gain enough deep connections with others and our environment, the need to eternally maintain our egos diminishes, which can be a refreshing relief. Participation in the world is enough. Dominance and ownership are unnecessary.

As for the lack of time, there are often ways to cheat for a little more of it to spread some best practices to those who are likely to benefit from them the most. If you're lucky enough to be a leader or manager, then you can set up training and organizational structures, which can formalize knowledge distribution and succession planning. Even if you're already doing it, there are new methods in new areas ripe for enrichment that may not have been apparent before. You'll surely recognize them better than me, but you do have to be looking for them.

About the author: Jim Montague
About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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