ArticleProcesses for Managing Disruption


One of my customers recently asked me why it makes sense in investing in processes and procedures when the market that we inhabit is so fraught with disruption.

The Disruption Question

One doesn’t know when the conditions will suddenly change, when we may have new players–and new technologies—coming in, and as they say, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. By the time we figure out how to perform a specific task, that task may change beyond recognition, or not even be needed.

First off, that’s a valid question. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the market today. As a matter of fact, the past thirty years have seen tremendous disruption worldwide on a variety of fronts, such as finance, technology, international relations, and so on. Even by default, there is a range of factors that are continuously changing how we do business. How do processes fit into such a setting?

The Three Goals of Process

In the context of dealing with disruptions, processes work in three phases, each phase performing a specific task that prepares the organization for change:

  • They describe how work is done in an organization. (Process Capture)
  • They help process owners identify better ways of performing the same tasks. (Process Improvement)
  • They help the organization prepare for—and even pre-empt—disruption. (Risk, Change, and Business Continuity Management)

Process Improvement

The second role of processes is to recommend better ways in which the same tasks can be performed or interlinked and to provide tools that enable the smoother and more efficient performance of these processes.

But that did not answer my customer’s question, of course.

Disruption Management

Each disruption brings with it a certain degree of change, and organizations must respond to these changes to continue to be in business. This is why we have Risk, Change, and Business Continuity Management—let’s just call them “Disruption Management” for simplicity—built into any mature process-driven organization. These changes translate into lower-level adjustments in tools, technologies, data, infrastructure, etc. that must be made to ensure businesses remain compliant and competitive amidst disruption.

The important thing to note here is that, because Disruption Management is built into a mature process, it becomes easier to respond to disruption. If you do not have these processes for managing disruption in place, what actually ends up happening is that month to month, quarter to quarter, year after year, you are constantly scrambling, trying to catch up with change.

As we all know, each disruption may impact a different part of your business, and without a structured view of how your business goes about its business, you may spend a lot of time identifying those precise parts of your organization and processes that must be changed to account for the latest disruption. And managing disruption itself becomes a full-time preoccupation in addition to your actual business.

But if you have your processes structured right, it becomes much easier to identify where each disruption impacts your business and easier and less time consuming to modify that specific part of your process, and you are back in business much faster than the rest of your competition.

A related advantage of having processes for managing disruption is that it helps identify where there might be disruption and manage risk. You can see where there can be problems and you can identify ways in which your processes, tools, and standards will have to change to accommodate changes in each variable. Thus, when change does hit you, your teams will know exactly what to do and move to “Plan B” with relative ease. This also reduces the effort and time spent in training and implementation, and you can rebound into the market quicker.

Like they say: Fortune favors the prepared mind. We help you prepare for disruption.


June, 2021