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Education competenices: Managing through processes and systems

This competency is one in a set of complete functional and behavioral qualities that, when fully realized, can help lead to professional success. View all competencies.


Designs practices, processes, and procedures necessary to get things done; simplifies complex processes; gets more out of fewer resources; creates systems that manage themselves.

Proficiency Level

Level 1: Basic Level 2: Intermediate Level 3: Advanced Level 4: Expert
Oversees simple operations Oversees and directs moderately complex operations efficiently Designs complex systems that can manage themselves or with little intervention Expertly fashions both simple and complex systems for large groups or organizations
Can figure out the processes necessary to get things done Employs the practices, processes, and procedures necessary to get things done Devises the processes and procedures, and clearly communicates them to others Anticipates constraints or sink holes, and incorporates energizers and safeguards to ensure smooth operation without much oversight
Can organize people and activities for simple processes Can organize people and activities for simple and complex processes Organizes people and activities while separating and combining tasks into an efficient workflow Creates opportunities for synergy and integration of workflow by using knowledge of the types of people or groups involved
Can follow through with measurement of a process or system that is already designed Knows what and how to measure Assesses what and how to measure and then measures it Adeptly adjusts measurement of processes and systems

Simplifies complex processes Makes things work through others without being there Impacts organizations, people, and results remotely

Overdoing mataging through processes and systems

  • May always be tinkering and refining, dissatisfied because of unreasonably high standards and expectations
  • May have trouble explaining his or her vision of a process; may never finish anything or be slow to change existing systems
  • May attempt to put too much together at once, misjudging the capacity of others to absorb change
  • May be too hard to reach and talk to; out of touch with the details
  • May get too comfortable having things run on autopilot; often surprised by negative events

Essentials questions

To improve your proficiency, ask yourself the following questions on a regular basis:
  • Are the practices, processes, and procedures I have set in motion running as smoothly as I expected?
  • What measures are in place to evaluate current processes?
  • What processes and systems need to be adjusted, augmented, or eliminated to streamline the operation of our organization?
  • What are the constraints we may face, and what safeguards can I put in place now to compensate?
  • Have I matched tasks correctly with available talent, or are adjustments needed?
  • Who do I need to involve in getting input and feedback for the processes and systems currently underway?
To avoid overdoing Managing Through Processes and Systems, ask yourself:
  • Am I setting unreasonably high standards and expectations?
  • Am I resistant to changing existing systems?
  • Am I too confident in the way things are going and surprised by negative events?

Interview questions

  • Please describe the most complex or extensive operation you've had to oversee. How large was it? What systems did you use to manage the individuals or groups in the operation? Were those systems already in place, or did you develop them? What were the results of your oversight?
  • Explain a practice, process, or procedure you've used to ensure that things get done as planned without constant oversight from you. What approach(es) did you use? Which were already in place, and which did you need to develop? What resulted from your approach?
  • Think back to your most challenging example of organizing people and activities into an efficient workflow or process. What was the process? What people and activities were involved? What was especially effective about the way you organized them? What were the results?
  • Think back to a process or system that required measurement. How did you determine what to measure and how to measure it? What were the results of your measures? To what extent did you have to modify them over time, and why was that necessary?
  • Describe a situation that demonstrates your ability to impact an organization, people, or results remotely. What was the situation, and what was your involvement in the development of the process? What were the results?

Learning on the job

Learning on your own: These self-development remedies will help you build your skill(s).
  • Be a student of how organizations work: Recognize the structure of your organization may be more complex than you think; often, it is more representative of a maze than a straight line.
  • Lay out the process; picture things in the form of flows: Move your process along with a good plan, which helps you get things done faster, make better use of resources, and anticipate problems before they occur. Use flow charts in your presentations. Consider flow chart software (e.g. ABC FlowCharter®).
  • Follow the process: Implement your plan, stopping once in a while to allow things to run their course. Recognize that due process takes time.
  • Rally support: Clearly communicate your vision to others. Share the goals of your process with those you need to support you. Get their input and find ways for them to win when you win. Be purposeful in your communication methods (e-mail, speeches, phone messages, memos) to be sure you are sending the message you intend.
  • Set goals and measures: Set goals for the whole project and for sub-tasks; establish measures to track progress. Communicate clearly verbally and in writing.
  • Match people to tasks: Give each person task(s) to match his or her capabilities. Delegate as much as you can to others, and ask their opinions when they come to you for decisions. Help them think things through, and trust them to follow the plan.
  • Envision the process unfolding: Run scenarios through your mind, considering various potential problems and how to deal with them. Create contingency plans, and pay attention to the weakest links.
  • Involve others in the creation of the process or system, and in monitoring the progress of it: Share your mission and goals with the people who will work the system and enlist their help in designing it. Get others involved in implementing the process feedback to keep up on timing and progress. Make the process a constructive one; avoid the blame game; be accessible.
  • Find someone in your environment who manages processes and systems well: Study what this person does and adapt your plan if necessary. Ask questions about how he or she figures things out.
  • Subscribe to "The Systems Thinker™"—Pegasus Communications, Inc., Cambridge, Mass. 617-576-1231: This publication is produced by a group dedicated to finding out how and why things work. They have a monthly publication, as well as workshops, seminars, and other materials, to help you see the world as a series of recurring systems and archetypes. They analyze everyday events and processes to see why they work the way they do.
Learning from develop-in-place assignments: These part-time develop-in-place assignments will help you build your skill(s).
  • Launch a new project, procedure, or curriculum.
  • Install a new process or system (new policies, new procedures).
  • Manage something remotely, away from your location.
  • Assign a project to a group with a tight deadline.
  • Plan an off-site meeting, conference, or workshop.
  • Build a multifunctional project team to tackle a common problem.
Learning more from your plan: These additional remedies will help make this development plan more effective for you.
  • Learning to learn better:
    • Envision doing something well in a group. Do envisioning and creativity exercises to come up with different ideas and solutions.
  • Learning from experience, feedback, and other people:
    • Use multiple models. Select role models of towering strengths (or glaring weaknesses). Learn from characteristics rather than from the whole person.
    • Learn by observing others. Objectively study what they do.
    • Consolidate what you learn from people. Write down rules or principles you learn, and share them with others.
    • Get feedback from your direct reports. Set a positive tone, and don't retaliate if you don't agree.
    • Get feedback from peers and colleagues. Promote trust to get honest, quality feedback.
  • Learning from courses:
    • Take a survey course, designed to give a general overview of an area of interest.
    • Combine the taking of any course with practice at the workplace, feedback, and integration of new skills and information.

Recommended readings

  • Brache, Alan P.How Organizations Work.New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002.
  • Carr, David K. and Henry J. Johansson.Best Practices in Reengineering.New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1995.
  • Champy, James A.X-Engineering the Corporation: Reinventing Your Business in the Digital Age.New York: Warner Books, 2002.
  • Conger, Jay A., Gretchen M. Spreitzer, and Edward E. Lawler, III (Eds.).The Leader’s Change Handbook: An Essential Guide to Setting Direction and Taking Action.San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc. 1999.
  • Dennis, Alan,Networking in the Internet Age.New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2002.
  • Ghoshal, Sumantra and Christopher A. Bartlett.The Individualized Corporation.New York: HarperBusiness, 1997.
  • Hammer, Michael.Beyond Reengineering: How the Process-Centered Organization Is Changing Our Work and Our Lives.New York: HarperBusiness, 1996.
  • Hammer, Michael and James Champy.Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution.New York: HarperBusiness, 2001.
  • Head, Christopher W.Beyond Corporate Transformation: A Whole Systems Approach to Creating and Sustaining High Performance.Portland, OR: Productivity Press, 1997.
  • Hildreth, Paul M.Going Virtual: Distributed Communities of Practice.Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing, 2004.
  • Hinds, Pamela and Sara Kiesler.Distributed Work.Boston: MIT Press, 2002.
  • Huotari, Maija-Leena and Mirja Livonen.Trust in Knowledge Management Systems in Organizations.Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing, 2004.
  • Juran, J.M.Juran on Leadership for Quality.New York: The Free Press, 2003.
  • Keen, Peter G.W.The Process Edge—Creating Value Where It Counts.Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1998.
  • Lawler, Edward E. III, Susan Albers Mohrman, and George Benson.Organizing for High performance: Employee Involvement, TQM, Reengineering, and Knowledge Management in the Fortune 1000: The CEO Report.San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, Inc., 2001.
  • Oshry, Barry.Seeing Systems—Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life.San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 1995.
  • Slywotzky, Adrian J., David J Morrison, and Karl Weber.How Digital Is Your Business.New York: Crown Business Publishing, 2000.
  • Stewart, Thomas A. The Wealth of Knowledge: Intellectual Capital and the Twenty-First Century Organization.New York: Doubleday, 2001.
  • The Systems Thinker™.Waltham, MA: Pegasus Communications, Inc.,781-398-9700. http:/
  • Van Ness, George and Keith Van Ness.Being There Without Going There: Managing Teams Across Time Zones, Locations and Corporate Boundaries.Boston: Aspatore Books, 2003.
  • Whitman, Michael E. and Amy B. Woszczynski.The Handbook of Information Systems Research.Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing, 2004.

Next steps

Copyright © 1992, 1996, 2001-2003 by Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This work is derived from the LEADERSHIP ARCHITECT® Competency Library developed and copyrighted by Robert W. Eichinger and Michael M. Lombardo for Lominger Limited, Inc.

This competency is one in a set of complete functional and behavioral qualities that, when fully realized, can help lead to professional success.