Bring discipline and focus with process management
As a last step in bringing sustainable performance to organizations, we move from the project mode delivering new products and processes to efficient operations to deliver the benefits promised during the selection of the project.
In this article we will focus on five guidelines that will help implement sustainable process management:
- Validate top management objectives with the work bas
- Promote a cross-functional view of the processes
- Develop the organization maturity during the implementation of process management
- Ensure a global business process ownership to standardize the approach across the organization
- Promote the right behavior
These tips reflect the simple but powerful ADKAR model for change management, as implementing process management within organizations is definitely a major change.
Establishing objectives and ensuring buy-in early on from the work base answers the need for Awareness & Desire.
Knowledge is built by making sure everybody gets a clear view of enterprise processes. Ability is developed during the definition of the To-Be process by the teams themselves.
Promoting the right behavior by linking it to adequate Rewards ensures the sustainability of the change.
Tip#1: Validate top management objectives with the work base
Objectives are often initially discussed at top management level to keep a competitive market position and fulfill shareholder expectations, without necessarily consulting the workers. However, in the end, the processes are run by the workers themselves, so it is important to make sure the objectives are ambitious but achievable to keep staff motivated.
As an example, top management may want to reach a 95% for order fulfilment rate. Based on experience, staff will determine if this target is achievable. Contracts may need to be renegotiated or the customer service department may need to adjust the way the commitment to the customer is made to achieve this. Otherwise an order fulfilment rate of 90% may be more realistic. Is the target delivery date the one communicated back to the customer or a fixed delay from the order date regardless of forecast accuracy?
Formally aligning objectives between top management and workers will help find the right balance between implementing the necessary improvements and setting realistic targets.
Tip#2: Promote a cross-functional view of the processes
In many organizations people tend to only look at their job and few have a cross-company view of processes. Many issues come from the fact that boundaries of responsibility between departments are poorly defined and we face the syndrome of throwing the hot potato over the wall. To enable end-to-end performance, one needs to make sure that hand-over between operations is efficiently managed. People must understand the way their job will impact others.
Building this cross-functional view during the project and making sure everybody is trained on it when launching the revisited process will help. Ensuring complementary Key Performance Indicators are defined across the organization will also align departments in the same direction.
Tip#3: Develop necessary skills during the process management implementation
Looking at one’s job in terms of process is neither intuitive nor natural to all workers. They need to think in a conceptual way to take distance from the daily issues they are confronted with. This new way of thinking does not come overnight so it is useful to build these new competencies at all levels in the organization during the project itself so that when launch arrives, people have had the opportunity to integrate this new way of working.
For example, having the operational teams design the new processes will ensure they become familiar and buy into the changes to be implemented because they understand the why and how. External consulting during the design phase may help the internal team acquire the process management methodology and challenge the To-Be process.
Tip#4: Ensure a global business process ownership to standardize the approach across the organization
Along the end-to-end view of the processes, it can be useful to define ownership of the processes beyond the department level. For example, having a global process owner for an order-to-cash macro-process may facilitate communication between sales, customer service, and accounting, not only at worker level but also at management level. To allow arbitration between departments, it may be useful to have this global process owner report high enough in the organization. In case of multiple business units it may also be a good idea to give the process owner responsibility for the process across business units, to achieve economies of scale and smoother deployment across the organization.
Tip#5: Promote the right behavior
Ego-driven organizations will most likely resist the process management approach, driven by facts and figures. The most efficient organizations promote instead a culture of respect and involvement of the staff in the decisions on improvements to be made. This creates empowerment and leads to efficient delegation of responsibilities and fostering of entrepreneurship to leverage the most value from all available competencies within organizations.
Allowing a know-it-all manager to decide on its own will for sure demotivate staff and decrease performance over the long term.
Providing coaching to some managers may go a long way to keep everybody happy and performing.
If coaching fails, it may in some cases be wiser to let a competent manager but poor leader go before collateral damage is too high.
This article concludes the first serie of the The Performing Organization focused on Best Practices. We have covered the full business performance cycle: definition of business excellence, strategy definition, portfolio management, project management, change management, leadership and process management.
It is obviously difficult to get all these processes right the first time, so it is important to adapt your Strategy Execution by applying the famous Deming’s PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) continuous improvement principle: one first plans the activies, second performs them, third monitors progress or improvements, finally defines corrective actions to be integrated in the next version of the plan.
We now intend to start a second serie of articles focused on the relationship between human behaviors and change management.