It takes a village to raise excellent processes
‘It takes a village to raise a child,’ the old saying goes, and it is equally true for developing a healthy process culture.
Process excellence and continuous improvement aren’t solitary pursuits, and without the support of the wider business team they’re doomed to struggle along ineffectively. Bringing the entire company on board, however, ensures that changes flow to the heart of your organizational culture and can make a lasting change.
Who is in this village, and what do they contribute?
Process experts – the village elders
These are the people who set the direction and call the village to action. Theirs is a strategic role, driven by the ‘why’ of the process excellence initiative and a commitment to their underlying purpose.
It’s usually this group that paints a picture of what could be, defining the end goal beyond simply capturing and improving processes, and outlining what success will look like.
Unfortunately, they’re usually a small team or even a solitary individual, with limited resources and a huge remit. It’s up to them to champion the vision for the organization with the executive, to secure the resourcing and champions they need to reach out to the line of business and engage them in bringing change.
What they bring: Focus and enthusiasm
What they need: Support and resourcing
C-level executive – the chief(s)
While the process experts are the drivers of change, they won’t get far without the support of those who make the decisions. C-level executives are the sponsors and champions that empower the kind of organizational shift that continuous improvement needs.
The message of process excellence must come from the top to be effective, underpinned by executive sponsorship. That includes resourcing the efforts both within the process management team and throughout the organization, and communicating their importance to everyone across the business.
The executive level will need to weather the challenges of change and the disruption it brings, and continue to champion the cause so that the organization doesn’t lose sight of the goal and the call to action.
What they bring: Resourcing and authority
What they need: A compelling story to tell
IT and Operations – the builders
All the vision in the world won’t help without a sound structure to support and facilitate action. This is where the IT and operations teams come in.
It usually falls to them to create and manage the infrastructure that makes process management possible, overseeing everything from purchase and implementation to user training and administration.
Of course, this isn’t all they’re responsible for. These busy teams are usually juggling competing demands, putting out the fires of shadow IT, and maintaining existing systems and structures for the business’ core needs.
With limited time and resources, few in this position are interested in populating a process framework, yet it is usually IT that is called upon to create flowcharts or Visio diagrams where no better tool has been employed.
This can cause delays, as well as confusion or even resentment as the tech specialists try to come to grips with the key process information for numerous business teams. What they really want is an integrated solution that they can oversee but not populate, so they can focus on managing the tool not the data.
In that scenario, IT and Ops teams can be strong advocates for process improvement, leveraging the same tools to make their own processes more robust and visible.
What they bring: Technical skill and oversight
What they need: The right tools
The line of business – your villagers
Everyone has their part to play in process excellence, and whether they are in sales, marketing, manufacturing, administration or any number of other roles, your line of business teams are a vital part of building your village.
What they bring is experience and knowledge; no one knows your processes better than the people who use them in their day-to-day work. They are the subject matter experts, the ones who know what the procedure manual says and what actually gets done (and often what should get done instead).
However, they are rarely process experts, so while they hold the raw knowledge, they need empowering and equipping to bring that into the process conversation. Everyone is busy, and few in the line of business will have the capacity to add process capture and review to their schedule.
This is where resourcing from the C-level provides the space to make continuous improvement workable. They also need tools that are accessible and intuitive. Rather than spending hours wrestling with flowchart connectors that won’t connect, they need simple but powerful ways to capture their process knowledge, provide feedback on the outcomes and respond to suggestions on the processes they oversee.
What they bring: First-hand process knowledge
What they need: Tools and time
Process excellence is a cultural value, not just a business strategy. It exists when the entire organization is on the same page, each team and individual bringing their unique strengths into the continuous improvement conversation.
While each portion of the equation has a part to play, communication and collaboration are essential across the board for maintaining momentum. By telling success stories and celebrating wins together, the teams can rally around the cause and ride out the disturbances that come with deep change.
When you engage the whole organization in the call to do what they do better, you will find you’ve built a village that everyone wants to be a part of.