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Process Management vs. Process Administration
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June 13, 2024
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In any management job, and in many non-management jobs, it is critical to achieve a good balance between Process Administration and Process Management. 
 
Process Administration is attending to the day to day. Process Management is attending to the future.
 
The difficulty with finding a good balance is that Process Administration can feel like a constant imperative, because - it is! There are things that just have to get done. If not, then phones don’t get answered, checks don’t go out, appointments are missed, and all of the myriad of daily things that must be done - don’t get done. It is hard to attend to anything else, and hard to justify taking the time to plan for the future.
 
Yet, Process Management is also critical to the success of your business and your success as a manager and leader. If Process Administration is ‘making the trains run on time,’ Process Management is ‘making a better train.’ Or, an airplane! Because change is constant and competition is fierce, adapting and improving and transforming are essential. And if your business is growing, Process Management is even more critical as you grow out of processes that are not scalable.
 
One way to approach Process Management is to use the Scientific Method. Form a hypothesis, design an experiment to test the hypothesis, conduct the experiment, collect data, analyze the date, and make conclusions to guide you in next steps.
 
Every now and then, a more intense approach to Process Management is called for. As your business evolves over time, and as you solve problems with various new processes, you can end up with a build-up of processes, some of which may still make sense, and some of which will not. It is like painting a wall, where each new process is like a new layer of paint. Eventually, there are just too many layers of paint, and it is necessary to strip it down and start over.
 
In my experience, finding a good balance between Process Management and Process Administration is one of the most difficult challenges managers face. If their heads are always in Process Management and coming up with new and better ways to do things, then the daily things that need to be done are neglected, with disastrous results. If they focus exclusively on the day to day imperative of Process Administration, the business withers over time, and eventually dies.
 
I’ll also point out that even if you are not in a management or leadership role in a business, contributing to Process Management can be a career changer. Assuming you are attending to your day to day responsibilities, and attending to them well, there are few better ways to get on management’s radar and advance your career than to suggest ways to do things better, especially when backed up by data. Being on the front line with intimate knowledge of your job, who better to see ways to improve it?
 
So, how to find the right balance? As a start, with a very small business in which the manager is directly responsible for day to day deliverables, my rule of thumb is to reserve 25% of one’s time for Process Management. This could be a day a week, or a couple hours a day. But find the time, no matter what. As the business or a manager’s role in the business grows, and as the load of daily personal tasks declines, then a manager should spend 50% of their time on Process Management. Resist the temptation to revert to Process Administration, and rely on your staff so you have the time to do your job and ensure they have jobs into the future.
 
Eventually, the portion of your time spent on Process Management may grow even more than 50% or even 75%. In my job as CEO of a company with $800 million in annual revenues, hundreds of employees, and several layers of management, I needed to spend 100% of my time on Process Management. If I had to get involved in the day to day business of Process Administration, it meant I hadn’t done a good job building a strong enough team. If I did my job well, I made myself the most expendable person in the company on any given day, and one of the least expendable over years.

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