Theory E²: Working with Entrepreneurs in Closely-Held Enterprises IX: Interplay Between Entrepreneurs and Maturity, Tasks, Problems and Environment
Continuous Process Production
Typically, this second kind of process is highly mechanized and is uncommon in closely-held enterprises (unless they are large, family-owned businesses). There is no starting or stopping point. This represents mechanization and standardization one step beyond those found in an assembly line. Automated machines control the continuous process, and outcomes are highly predictable. Examples include chemical plants, oil refineries, liquor producers and nuclear power plants. Many agri-businesses primarily operate in this manner, as do many large-scale fisheries and textile plants.
Continuous process production might also be considered the primary mode of operation in many human service industries. While these businesses (for example, department stores, hotels, theme parks, schools and colleges, hospitals, mental health clinics, government agencies) are usually not heavily automated, they typically are ongoing activities that have no distinctive start or end—though they often do have seasons, such as summer vacation, year-end sales, or reelections.
Continuous processing is also found in the financial and auditing departments in many enterprises. While the financial operations are often not as automatic and automated as we would like them to be, they are a form of continuous process production because they are ongoing, with no beginning point or end point (other than the somewhat arbitrary nature of the fiscal year). The same could be said of many sales departments, which are continuous processes.
As in the case of organizations and groups that primarily focus on mass production, those that are primarily in the business of continuous process production usually require assertive leaders. However, a thoughtful style is also appropriate, for careful monitoring of highly automated processes is critical. Similarly, in many human service organizations, close monitoring is needed, suggesting that assertive functioning is appropriate. A highly participatory style that might be created in self-managed work teams is less likely to be welcomed in human service organizations. However, inspiring entrepreneurial leaders are often quite valuable, given that high levels of dedication are often needed for human service organizations to be successful. Members of these organizations are often faced with low wages, long hours and complex human problems. They need inspiration.