Wednesday, 31 October 2012

What is more important - process or people ?

Once upon a time, in the faraway land of India, there lived two brothers named Haldi and Ram. They played studied and grew up together to be fine young men. Though they were great friends and laughed and played together, they had a fundamental difference in their attitude towards work.

Says Haldi Brother Ram, let us  build a food joint where we will have an excellent process for preparing and serving food. Our process will be our USP”.

Says Ram: “ Process will not help us in growth. We will need skilled and dedicated people who will innovate and create delicacies leading to customer delight “

They hemmed and they hawed.
They argued and they fought.
They cribbed and they screamed.

When the wise old man, their father,  saw them sitting and sulking, he said  Sons!  during my hey days, I toiled hard and  saved from my meager income. Here is Rs 1000 for each of you.  Go out in the world and create wealth based on your ideas . But …. , one condition … ,  at the end of  a year, the one who is unsuccessful in making profit will have to do whatever I tell him to do

Haldi and Ram’s eyes shone with excitement ! Both of them touched their father’s feet and set out with dreams in their eyes and hope in their hearts.

The process oriented Haldi first chalked out a plan , budgeted the investments and in a month’s time , a cute little joint named “Haldis” was built.  Ram went to an expensive designer and he too erected a sweet little joint and called it “Rams”.

Ram hired the best chefs who were specialists in preparing delicious food. They were constantly doing research and tried and tested different concoctions, herbs and ingredients.  The chefs would challenge each other and try to prove they were the best amongst equals. The chefs wanted Ram to get them the best spices, the best material and the best cooking platforms. They would be extremely upset if these things were unavailable and would threaten to leave Rams. But the chefs were animated and excited about always working on new things and ideas.  Ram was happy to see the progress. He was confident that his vision would help him achieve his goals.

Haldi , in the meantime,  was busy chalking out the best processes. He hired some chefs who he knew and negotiated with them on their salary. He asked the senior chef to write the recipes which would be served at Haldi so that there would be standardization.  He meticulously planned the process flow. The customers would come in a queue and  place the order and pay for it. Once the payment is received,  the customer would take the copy of the receipt to the counter. The receipts would have different color coding  to differentiate between different food groups. The counters would have labeling mentioned clearly on them to avoid confusion. The counters would be divided such that as soon as the receipt is handed to the chef, they would immediately prepare the food without wasting time.  This done, he was all set to win his customer’s hearts.

One fine morning, Haldi called out “ Ahoy ! Come one , come all to Haldis ! Eat and enjoy to your hearts content! You will get the best food here in reasonable prices !”

Ram called out “Friends, Indians and Countrymen! Come and taste India’s finest delicacies at Rams ! You will not be able to forget the exotic taste and flavor! “

And people came to Haldis
And people came to Rams.

Days weeks and some months passed  by …..

Rams customers were delighted with range of offerings. But they were unhappy with the high prices and the turnaround time of the orders placed. They were irritated and sometimes stunned about the inconsistency and unpredictability of the food served to them. The dishes were exotic and they loved the taste, but when they came back for the second or third time and ordered for it, a very different preparation would be served. When the customers complained, the chef was called and he explained in detail about the intricate procedure why the serving had not turned out to be as per the customer’s expectation! The dedicated and talented chefs would argue with Ram for not providing enough information!

Haldis customers were ecstatic about the service. and they were very happy with the price. Everything seemed to be like clockwork. They did not waste time in placing orders and neither did they have to wait long for the food to be served. But alas! The food was bland and tasteless. The toppings and accessories were neither innovative nor interesting!

And days, weeks and eleven months passed by…..

Both Haldi and Ram were crest fallen! They had incurred huge losses!

Both of them went to the wise old man, their father, and stood before him with shame and despair on their faces.  Their father listened and then placed Haldi and Rams hands on each other and said Sons! Go and establish Haldirams! Take the last Rs 2000 which I had kept aside for this day, and I know that this time you will succeed !

Tears rolled down the brothers cheeks. They embraced each other and with renewed vigor they set out with dreams in their eyes and hope in their hearts.

Rams’ expert chefs documented their exotic, intricate and unique recipes and trained Haldis chefs. Haldis‘ workers ensured that Rams’ personnel followed the process of food preparation so that there is predictability. Some of the expert chefs were designated to do constant research so that the menu may be revised periodically to make it innovative, in tune with the changing needs of the customer and at the same time is profitable to Haldirams.  

And lo and behold !

Customers started pouring in. they praised the taste of the food and were extremely satisfied about the value for money. They were excited about the different choices which were offered by Haldirams and they wanted to come back again and again! The chefs and the staff were happy and within a year the brothers inaugurated several other outlets of  Haldirams.  

And the wise old man smiled!   And Haldi and Ram lived happily ever after….

Did they? Yes, they did but they were constantly improving the quality of food and service. Even to this day, their great-great-great-great –great- grandsons are on the path of continuous improvement. They constantly seek feedback from their customers and act on it.

The last time I visited Haldirams I noticed that the receipt had been perforated so that the customer is not inconvenienced in having to tear them unevenly to be presented to different counters. And the wooded counter dividers had been replaced with glass so that there is complete transparency and the customers can verify the hygiene.

Author's comments: Though the story is fictitious, Haldirams does exist. It is a very popular and profitable food joint . with several outlets in India. And all the processes mentioned above including hygiene are an integral part of Haldirams.   I am sure all of us can draw the simile between Haldirams and software development ? No? Then please contact me  :-)  .......


  1. At times people forget to maintain the proper balance between the people and the process, which are the utmost ingredients in the quality of the product. I hope s/w folks will sit and review their basics after reading this.A very catchy analogy indeed.

    1. I agree there has to be management and marketing hand in hand. When both are free to perform well and according to best practices business projects and plans will prosper. I think it is important also to understand that one person alone cannot do both. Businesses are almost never built by one person but a collaboration of a team who have the same vision. The story of Haldiram is very encouraging; sharing business success. In relation to software I believe the situation is the same. Marketing should work with management to gain understanding of research and development so the best products can be offered to the right people. I agree there needs to be high importance placed on process and people. The importance may not always be equal but should be closely held together.

    2. Theresa, Thanks for bringing in the marketing perspective

  2. It is best to keep the meaning of the words clear and precise in order to have a productive discussion. When you say thinking process, it can be logical, reasonable, the thinking process thought or activity of thinking (i.e., the thinking process behind making a particular decision). If the meaning of the original question to this thread (and reading the story) applies to this meaning ~ what is more important, a person's thinking process, plan to produce a product for the market or people who will purchase this product ~ you can see that the word process was inappropriately used. What the author meant was business idea or production plan. The plan looked great on the surface, but the people or customers did not like the end results. They had lots of choices, but none of the choices were tasty.

    Haldi, in the story, was smart is looking at the entire system to create his products: product, production, personnel, salaries, etc. What the story is missing, is that a great chef would have tasted and known the recipe was not a good one, a recipe for failure vs a recipe for success. Haldi did not really have great chefs and he really did not follow a good business plan. His system was faulty and the business idea failed. He learnt a BIG lesson. Because his business requires that customers (persons) love his product (food), he could not satisfy this basic need.

  3. The example given by you,is pertinent and knowledgeable-Modern management techniques do a great job in augumenting the the business acumen,needed to survive nowadays-However mere survival oriented methods,tend to tilt either towards the process,or people-The father represents the missing link--that is wisdom-I would not agree with the view that there should be a balance of the two-process and people-Effective management of human resources,entails understanding ,primarily that its people who initiate process-Respect this view,thats when the process comes Alive-Human endeavor when recognized,appreciated,and implemented..spreads out the apt process-You will be surprised ,the meaning,of each word blurs-its this majestic fluidity that delivers-Man is a inalienable part of the process initiated by him-It (the process)acquires his(mans)human attributes-Balance was never more radiating---

  4. Good Analogy Ananya to discuss the most debated topics of people and process.

    I agree with Vijay that People and Process cannot be seen separately. People start with activities and over time and practice, a workable pattern is defined. This is the base for defining processes that brings predictability to the outcome (productvity). Over time, optimization of processes transforms into the "value" of the company. The final form is the inseparable part between people and processes, which is the "culture". Here people follow processes involuntarily (uniformity). Sometimes,when you are in the optimized stage, there is also a risk of not seeing the wrong side of processes.

    1. Kannan, point about imbibing and evolution of organizational culture is good ! Thanks !

  5. If you ask me, in the model of onshore, off shore and near shore we should support people who follow process. Yes we should review/validate process on a regular interval to involve people and drive with their ownership and accountability.