A CEO of a 150-employee services company made this astute observation: processes reduce need for talent, and thus, reduce labor costs. This company requires highly talented professionals to deliver its services.
Historically, management allowed them to work without defined processes because the employees knew what to do. However, as the company grew, finding such talent became harder and more expensive.
Processes become the path to training and developing in-house talent. They are analogous to painting by numbers or following recipes in cooking; they improve the output produced by individuals who don’t have a grasp on the entire work. However, just as we wouldn’t confuse painting by numbers with being an artist and following a recipe with being a chef, we shouldn’t confuse executing the steps of a process with being talented. Processes allow the breakdown of a task without necessarily needing to understand the task itself. It’s like following a series of directions; you don’t need to know your destination.
Since an employee doesn’t need to understand the whole task to follow a process, he does not need the talent that that understanding requires. Essentially, the process is making the decisions for him as embodied by its rules and procedures. As a result, the company does not have to pay a premium for that talent. Processes reduce need for talent and the cost it brings.