Imagine a global company headquartered in Israel with thousands of employees, relatively successful, respected in its field, which has experienced rapid growth over the last decade.
However, something isn’t quite right. It seems several of the fundamental processes within the company do not match the size and aspirations of the firm. One such process is updating and maintaining the website.
To begin with, the website uses outdated technology and most of the available energy goes towards maintenance. Some of the site has stronger content while the rest lacks. Departments are not using the same processes or terminology to move product into the web. Some sections are being ignored and lack updates. The company is preoccupied with growing their market share (as they should be), and such a fundamental process is unconsciously left to its own devices.
We began to work with this (real) company on what we term a micro transformation, using the conceptual framework we will discuss below. When the project was done, processes, responsibilities, and methodology were in sync. The website was functioning at a higher level, at a lower price.
The Generic Problem
As a founder of a growing company, if, like Rip Van Winkle (or his equivalent in the Jewish tradition, Honi the Circle-maker), you were to fall asleep and wake up a few years later, the company you would walk into would be largely unrecognizable from its first iteration. You would notice the sparkling new offices, the new departments that were added, and the different ways of getting things done. Most of this is a result of positive, necessary change as the company scaled.
But some of these changes, particularly when it comes to processes, are bloat and inefficiencies that have been picked up and passed down through the years, without anyone really noticing.
New people, mistakes, and neglect together comprise a silent game of broken telephone leaving the corporate structure partly inefficient. Despite zealously implemented standard operating procedures, templates and guidelines, the tendency is towards disarray.
This phenomenon becomes most apparent, and most troublesome, in the division of labor within a given process. When a company is first forming, management will divide labor and responsibilities as evenly and consciously as they can. Without the mask of corporate anonymity, people are held accountable at all levels.
Yet, as new people and departments are integrated into the corporate structure, the division of labor will break down. Some will do more, some will do less, and as a result of diffusion of responsibility tasks (and in our experience, even entire processes) will fall between the cracks.
A muddled hierarchy leads to undefined ownership of processes, and is thus a drain on productivity. Sorting through the tangled web is a colossal task requiring deep analysis coupled with delicate rearrangements within the organization.
Micro-Transformation of a Web System
How can a company go about setting things straight? Through a process we term micro-transformations. A micro-transformation is a focused appraisal of a specific process (web harmonization in our case), and streamlining that process according to your chosen methodology.
There are many methodologies of varying effectiveness; here is our model to micro-transform an organizational system, summarized in this chart:
The chart describes a model to analyze one business process, in this case web system harmonization, as an ordinal series of responsibilities, with levels 3-7 relying on next one below, and management and governance at the top.
The business goal is a sleek user-end website to represent the company and generate leads. That website depends on content. Content depends of content generation. Content needs updated web infrastructure. And all this must be supervised by management, with governance making executive decisions.
This method holds up a magnifying glass to a given process, allowing executives to begin the arduous journey of re-calibration. First identify the levels responsible (Level), then what that level needs to accomplish (Meaning)
Once the needs are defined, a thorough investigation of who provides for those needs today can be conducted (Current Situation). When the investigation is complete, decisions can then be made about who is ideally suited for each responsibility (Ideal Situation).
From Micro to Macro: The value of Micro transformations as building blocks
The influence of one successful micro-transformation is not limited to the process for which transformation was done. Turning over stones always leads to something unexpected.
By focusing on a localized issue, wider gaps in the company’s structure will inevitably reveal themselves. The second micro-transformation will therefore always be easier than the first.
Complete a few micro-transformations, and trends will start to appear. These trends allow management to pin-point specific problems affecting the entire organization (especially cross departmental processes), whether that be corporate culture, a certain software, an entire department, or even an individual employee. This methodology hands C-level executives the tools to make the necessary decisions which will increase efficiency and profitability across the entire organization.