Eat your children, or: all processes properly contain the seeds of their own change

I was looking on YouTube recently for clips of Cheri Knight, a friend who was a well-regarded musician in a former career.  In so doing I came across the clips of a new singer, Selena Gomez.  As I was listening to one of her songs I realized that I’d heard this song many times before over the last couple decades—the same chord changes, very similar melodies, and the same sing-songy voice rendering them.  In fact, Ms. Gomez is simply the latest pretty young woman with a good voice to record this and similar songs.

But being in the practice area that we are, my initial thoughts were that while the “product” is the same (pretty young woman, catchy voice, good singer, lotsa records (or whatever) sold), the process that produced it has had to change over time.  The process that produced the pop stars of the 50s, 70s, 90s was different from the process that today has to revolve around social media (a new one every month, it seems), downloadable songs, and faux viral campaigns (a.k.a. paid tweeters and the like).  This is a point that we make repeatedly: all processes have to be adaptable and to change, because the world changes.  The process may have conservative, status quo-biased change mechanisms, or it may have mechanisms that actively seek out change to itself, even sub-optimal ones.  But every process must be adaptable (that is, have a change mechanism, or feedback loops) if it is to survive.  It is the job of the process designer (that is, top management) to design the processes for their enterprises with the appropriate change mechanisms.  That all processes properly contain the seeds of their own change, is a fact still not fully recognized by the resisters to process-based management.

Without them, you’d wind up trying to sell Selena Gomez on the Ed Sullivan show and wonder why her LPs weren’t moving.


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