How to Maximize Business Process Reengineering: People, Process, and Tools
Business process reengineering requires project management practitioners to leverage various methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma, PMP and Prince 2 to deliver process efficiency and bottom line savings.
Although these methodologies are used for various purposes in solving for efficiency, there isn’t much focus on the psychological side of project management. My goal is to share key learnings across people, process, and tools that can help you in your business process reengineering efforts.
I realized the importance of understanding group dynamics when I managed my first project. The effort I was leading consisted of volunteers from other parts of the organization.
At first, the team members were excited about being on a high profile initiative. As the project progressed, however, I noticed the team’s energy declining. It started to impact the completion of tasks, and I was getting concerned that it could result in the project being delayed.
I couldn’t understand why they weren’t making their tasks a priority, especially since senior management was monitoring the initiative.
I decided to conduct a survey to understand what they thought of my leadership, what they thought of each other, and what they thought they could gain from this project.
The outcome was that I was pushing them too hard to meet deadlines, team members weren’t investing equal amount of effort, and they didn’t see how this initiative would help their career.
From that point forward, I had weekly 15 to 20 minute one-on-one meetings with each team member to build a personal rapport and further understand what he or she had on his or her plate. These meetings helped me gauge if my timelines were too strict or if the individual had conflicting deliverables.
As project managers, we have to remind ourselves that many of the resources working with us on projects are not solely dedicated to our initiative –they have day jobs with other priorities.
Since the team felt that there were some individuals putting in more effort than others, I decided to have a team-building event where we reviewed everyone’s personality type.
I used the Myers-Briggs Personality Type test to help educate everyone on his or her own personality type and understand how his or her personality fit into the overall team. This exercise was instrumental in helping the team understand how each worked and modify any previous perceptions.
Lastly, team member engagement increases when a sponsor is present; therefore, I asked senior management to randomly attend our meetings. It definitely motivated the team, and it gave them an opportunity to shine in front of senior management.
Overall, it’s important for project managers to invest the time in getting to understand the dynamics of their team. Not doing so may result in delayed project timelines and in some instances, undermining the entire effort. Here are some criteria I’ve used in leading successful business process reengineering teams.
Key Criteria for Leading a Successful Project Team
- Know how to adapt your leadership style
- Build relationships with each team member (even if virtual) before the kick-off meeting
- Understand the "What’s In It for Me" (WIIFM) factor for each individual including sponsors/stakeholders
- Leverage Myers-Briggs profiles (e.g., ISTJ, ENTP, ENTJ) to better understand how a team will work together
- Become familiar with Tuckman’s five stages of group development (Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Adjourning)
- Identify potential blockers (individuals who may intentionally or unintentionally undermine your project)
- Assess who is the informal leader within your team
I learned to appreciate the complexity of building a project pipeline when I had to "hunt" for business process reengineering projects. At first, it was overwhelming because I was now responsible for delivering savings without having any projects at hand.
I found that even within the same business unit, there were similar processes that evolved independently of each other. So, my approach was to look at processes holistically rather than by department or geography.
As ideas developed, I met with the people doing the job. If I felt there was an opportunity, I either shadowed them for the day or conducted a phone interview. Either way, I worked with them to document the reality of the process.
Once I had enough data, I brainstormed with colleagues on the "What could go wrong?" factor. These sessions typically involved individuals who would poke holes into my ideas and had no problem telling me what they thought. It was important for me to have this type of forum because it allowed me to flesh out the risks that could result from changing the process.
After passing some more litmus tests, I then worked closely with Finance. Mainly because the department typically deducts savings from the profit and loss statement and on a monthly basis, forecasts the financial savings/contributions one’s project will generate. So, it was in my best interest to make sure the business process reengineering project savings were always aligned.
Hunting for projects requires one to have strong relationship building skills and an eye for identifying opportunities. By going outside of my parameters, I was able to find new ideas and test those ideas to generate several viable global reengineering opportunities. Below are some additional criteria I’ve used that may be helpful.
Key Criteria for Streamlining Process and Reengineering
- Ensure savings in project charter/cost benefit analysis are regularly updated with the numbers reported by Finance/Controllership
- Include an on-going "What can go wrong?" agenda item in meetings
- Survey sponsors and change targets to understand point of departure
- Shadow change targets and assess their change readiness level
- Identify process perception and compare to reality
- Use the Critical Chain Project Management methodology to manage process
- Leverage Kurt Lewin’s Change Management Model
I’ve seen hundreds of business process reengineering tools as I’ve progressed from project manager to portfolio-level leader. In the end, the best tool out there really depends on your organizational culture, technology infrastructure, and project management readiness level.
I found that companies more often tend to create bespoke tools versus leveraging good ready-made tools like Agile. I’ve used bespoke tools to ready-made tools and found that there isn’t one tool to solve for all situations. Currently, I like to use Scrum because of its flexibility and tracking flows.
My recommendation is to advocate for business process reengineering tools that you think can work within your organization. There are many sites out there that provide solution comparisons that can help you find the right tool for you.
In conclusion, project managers are expected to deliver results in shorter timelines with fewer resources. Strong relationships could mean the difference between having someone put your project at the top or bottom of his or her priority list.
Demonstrating relevance is important in today’s economy especially as many companies are engraining "innovation" or "transformation" into their DNA, if they haven’t done so already; therefore, being a great communicator and relationship builder is equally important as being a great technician.
This is the formula I’ve used over the years: 80 percent people + process (relationship/knowledge skills) and 20 percent tools (technical skills). It’s served me well – particularly when implementing new ways to manage projects (e.g., Critical Chain Project Management). Hope you find it useful.