10 habits of successful process professionals

Wondering how you can become a process professional with high impact in your organization? Here are 10 habits of successful process professionals:

#1: They focus on business outcomes:

Let’s face it, apart from a select tribe of you and your fellow process compatriots, not many other people in your company care about process. Many of your colleagues, if not most, don’t even think of the work they do in process terms. Instead they care about hitting their numbers, doing their job with minimal hassle and working for a successful company. How are your improvements going to help them do that?

Do you focus on inputs or outcomes?

Don’t focus myopically on the "inputs" of your efforts – e.g. how many projects you’ve run, how quickly you’ve done them, how many people you’ve trained – but instead focus on the outcomes you’re generating for your business. How many projects have had a real, sustained, and positive impact on overall business performance? How are you helping to drive business performance and to make the lives of your colleagues that little bit easier?


#2: They understand the business drivers:

Successful process professionals are able to "zoom in" and "zoom out." That means that while they’re able to get down into the details of a particular process and understand the technical intricacies, they never lose sight of the larger business reason for the work they’re doing.

#3: They translate the message to fit the audience:

Your business is composed of all kinds of different audiences. These audiences have different training, education and experience levels. They have different responsibilities and care about different things. As a result, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to communication simply does not work. Is your audience more interested in the financial impact of a process improvement or are they worried about what impact it will have on their jobs? Make sure you understand what’s going to matter most to your audience - put yourself in their shoes - and then start talking.

#4: They avoid technical – and Japanese – jargon

We know it can be tempting to spout off about "end to end process management" or "standard deviation" or "sigma levels" just to illustrate how much you know about the topic. And if you’ve been trained in Lean you might want to show off how worldly you are by talking about Poka-Yokes, Muda, and Kaizens. But don’t be tempted do it in front of your non-process business colleagues as it’s the fastest way to lose friends and alienate people.

Plain English should suffice for most things that you have to say and for more complex concepts, think about how metaphors or practical examples can help staff relate to the concepts. Remember, the point of communication is not to make yourself look smart…it’s to make other people understand!

#5: They think about the impact of process changes on staff

Life would be so easy without all the other people. Imagine how easy it would be if you could change anything and those changes would be immediately followed by everyone without any question or hesitation. Clearly, it doesn’t work that way.

Process changes have real impact on people’s jobs. They will need to make adjustments to habits and skills they’ve built up, possibly over years. They’ll need to, in some cases, learn an entirely new way of doing something. They might even need additional training. Successful process professionals factor in the human element and understand how process changes will impact the people who need to actually do the work.

#6: They listen

Your ears are an absolute marvel of engineering and it’s amazing what can happen when you use them effectively. Useful for gathering information they can also be used to identify potential problems with a proposed solution, to smooth over organizational politics and to learn.

Successful process professionals are constantly listening to the business, to customers and to employees. This makes them more effective in identifying those projects and initiatives that will deliver great value to the organization. It also increases the likelihood that process changes will be accepted and sustained by employees and leadership as they will feel that they’ve had a say in the process.

#7: They listen

Just a little reinforcement…if you’re not certain how important it is to listen, go back and read #6 again.

#8: They listen

Oh and did we mention how important it was to listen to people?

#9: They are constantly learning

Life would be so easy if we were born knowing everything that we would ever need to know. Alas, it doesn’t work that way, and successful process practitioners understand the importance of continually learning and evolving their skillset. That could involve benchmarking or attending a conference to hear how other companies are approaching similar challenges, taking a course in an area like project management or change management, learning from failures (as well as successes), and networking and sharing ideas with other practitioners. Don’t expect that a one-off bit of Lean Six Sigma training is going to set you up for perpetual success.

#10: They coach and mentor others

Successful process professionals understand that on their own they will be less effective than if they can mobilize the talents of other people within the organization. And while it might seem like hard work to teach your organization "to fish" you’ll reap dividends if you stop trying to catch our fine aquatic friends all by yourself and mentor others to get their fishing rods at the ready.

What do you think? Are there any habits missing from this list?