Conflicting Process Goals: Is it You or THEM?


What’s the biggest problem affecting your business process?  I can tell you from vast experience that most people answer this question with a “they” statement.  Every time I help an organization with a business process, conflicting goals arise.

Consider the following:

  • We could have finished the code if THEY (the customer) had stopped changing the acceptance criteria.
  • The reason we’re behind on billing customers is that THEY (the sales team) don’t bother to send us the invoice details.
  • I could sell more product if THEY (the management team) could approve exceptions more quickly.
  • We could improve quality if THEY (customers, sales, managers) would stop asking us to “rush” something through the production line.

There is seldom just one goal for every process.   Let’s say we are creating a consumer product.  Our goals might include:  product features, secure shipping, timely payment, delivery speed, and/or quality.   Each of the stakeholders who work on the process – to design, source, produce, deliver and warranty a product – have different views of which goal is most important.  To manufacturing, product quality is the primary concern.  To sales, delivering the product in a timely fashion is key.

Instead of recognizing the conflict for what it is – a difference in goal-focus – we assume that THEY just don’t care about the most important goals.  When this happens… and it happens all the time… we have to do something counterintuitive.  Instead of simply complaining among our own team about how THEY prevent process success, we should invite them in.

I’ve led a lot of process improvement efforts.  The real tipping point for every one of them is the point at which we start to see each other’s challenges.  Simply talking about what you’re trying to achieve, in a calm and organized way, changes everything.  Your goals don’t change.  If you care about the shipment going out on Wednesday, you still want it to ship on time.  But understanding the process and goals of your colleagues helps you understand how YOU can help the process run faster.

Here’s the magic sauce:   Get the right people in the room, ESPECIALLY if their goals are in conflict. Then get them talking about what they go through to get product out the door.  If you need help, just shoot me an email… I love this kind of thing.


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