Why you must move beyond "pockets of excellence"
Do you have pockets of process excellence but no coordinated approach? For sustained results, writes contributor Jeff Varney, process management MUST be a team sport.
In a recent article, I talked about random acts of improvement — when change initiatives are undertaken across the organization, with good intentions, but without oversight and alignment. While there may be localized improvement, employees use resources that might have been better applied to a more important need, or worse yet, the change can break another part of the organization, minimizing the gains or having an overall negative effect.
Another common occurrence within organizations is what we call "pockets of process excellence." This is where individuals or small groups scattered across an organization have strong process management practices, but they don’t tie cohesively together into how work gets done end-to-end.
Do you have pockets of excellence?
When looking at organizations that have pockets of excellence, one or more groups are managing their processes brilliantly: documentation exists, roles and expectations are communicated, measures are in place, accountability is enforced. They may be doing world-class stuff and reaping the benefits within their part of the business. But they are often following their own approach to process management – doing it their way – and not sharing best practices or following a consistent approach across the entire organization. In the extreme case they could be contributing to random acts of improvement with potentially negative impacts to other parts of the business.
For a strong, sustainable process capability, it’s more important to have a consistent, coordinated approach than to have outstanding performance in one group.
This doesn’t mean that the localized development of process excellence was a waste, nor does it mean it shouldn’t be developed further. It’s actually quite the opposite. The goal should be to harness their energy, results, and learning to expand process management across the entire organization. If an enterprise process management approach does not already exist, organizations can adopt/adapt from the pockets of excellence to establish a more comprehensive model. Each pocket becomes extremely valuable because it can lead the way in learning and leveraging what has been done—they can champion the enterprise approach and show how to get it done on a day-to-day level. This allows people in other parts of the business to invest and buy into the approach.
There may be resistance to broadening the scope of process beyond silos, both from the pockets of excellence and the rest of the business. It’s about getting people to understand and use process management effectively to drive better organizational performance through change management, communication, training, performance, all with the ability to enforce compliance and develop or mature that capability. Organizations with world-class process management have learned that process fits the entire organization across all functions, not just in pockets of excellence.