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Keeping your eye on the ball

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Humans are creatures of habit; we subconsciously drift into routines that provide predictability and a sense of comfort and security. Habits and routines have their place – they get us up in the morning and into work on time but as soon as we stop achieving the desired result, we change them. As individuals, we own them.

Similarly, habits and routines have their place in business although perhaps more commonly referred to as ‘process.’ Processes enable businesses to operate efficiently and reliably, but unlike the human routine, business processes often lack ownership and accountability. There’s often no one in place to raise the flag when the point has been lost and effect change.

The concept of the “annual performance review” provides a great example of this. Having surely evoked eye rolls and sighs among employees for years, these words may soon be a thing of the past as more and more businesses fail to connect the process with a valuable outcome.

As of September this year, Accenture, one of the largest companies in the world will rid the annual performance review from its business. Accounting firm Deloitte has also announced the end of the performance review process and National Australia Bank has told the The Australian Financial Review it is considering the end of theirs.

Andrew Thorburn, National Australia Bank chief executive, told The Australian Financial Review, “in big companies you can build up complexities and processes which like Chinese whispers end up nothing like you really need.”

Accenture CEO Pierre Nanterme told The Washington Post “the process is too heavy, too costly for the outcome. And the outcome is not great.”

Although this is perhaps a ‘syndrome’ most commonly associated with large organisations, businesses of any size should treat processes as individuals treat routine: keep focussed on the point and shake it up the moment we lose it.