Automating Process Governance to Ensure Change

Jeff Cole

Jerry is a process owner in the rollout stage of a Six Sigma project. He's just completed a meeting that seemed to go very well. Everyone agreed with his presentation and indicated they would follow the new process. But did they really agree, or were they smiling and nodding politely while secretly hatching an evil plot to do things their own way the nanosecond they return to the office?

Granted, "evil" is a bit harsh, but you get the picture. If people willingly resist, it can be overt where folks tell you they don't intend to follow your process change or covert in which they appear to agree but for varied reasons don't comply with the new process. While you'll likely never eliminate resistance to large process changes, you can manage resistance if you know about it.

So, if you are a process owner, how do you know if people are following your process? Can you tell the status of your process at a glance? One recent trend is to automate process governance to help process owners identify in real-time those hot spots where the process needs attention and other places where it can be left alone—from a process change management perspective.

Manufacturing has been doing this for decades—Lean has its Andon Boards, and one glance at Quality Magazine shows there are a number of firms selling equipment that bolts onto your machinery to take real time measurements and stream control charts and other dashboard updates right to your PC. It's popular in retail too with Walmart having been said to be integrating RFID into some products on their shelves to automatically trigger stock replenishment systems. The part of the trend I want to address takes this off the shop floor and into those more complex, lengthier processes where automating process governance is a wide-open frontier.

Automating Process Governance Case Study

A global firm had a three-step employee survey process.
  1. Employees complete the annual survey
  2. Reports are sent to each of the 1,000+ managers globally for their organizations
  3. Managers review the results with their groups, then develop and execute improvement action plans based on the survey findings
Simple, right? A process audit indicated that less than 50 percent of managers were actually reviewing, planning and executing as promised. It was a challenge to govern such a process with managers in five business units spread over 60 countries (and none of them reporting to the person responsible for governing this). To misquote Deming, "If you don't measure it, it's darn hard to manage it." The solution: A Web site was deployed wherein the manager had two simple tasks: 1) log on to indicate receipt of their report and list the date for their feedback session and 2) after the session, list the top three-five action items. (Total time cost: under four minutes.) This allowed the global process owner to do several things: At the click of an icon, it identified who was on target and behind schedule. This drove appropriate real-time sponsorship communications. Secondly, it allowed for global analysis of action items to determine key leverage points and strategies for what to best address locally versus globally. The end result was a turnaround of a global downward trend and significant increase in process engagement.

Playing a Major Role in Process Governance: Electronic Management

Companies such as the midwest-based Van Hoose Associates ( are leading the charge by aiding organizations in what is called Electronic Management (EM). Electronic Management can play a major role in process governance. According to CEO Dave Vicars, "EM provides an electronic means of capturing a process and facilitating the teams' collaboration and progress towards meeting an LSS goal on a real time basis." For example, on one Electronic Management deployment for Lean Six Sigma, the process was taking over 750 days; and the organization's users had agreed to timelines that would reduce the process down to 160 days. What they soon realized was that Electronic Management could be configured to provide the real-time feedback needed to monitor the user progress towards these Lean Six Sigma metrics. The timelines quickly dropped from 750 days to just over 200 days and continued to fall.

Not only does Electronic Management monitor the processes for which it is configured, it provides the functionality to get the work accomplished. By providing both aspects, i.e. the monitoring and the doing, Electronic Management incentivizes the end users to meet any Lean Six Sigma metrics—a cornerstone concept for process change management.

Bottom Line Prediction: Process Governance Automation Will Be Hot in the Next Few Years

Look for Electric Management and other forms of governance automation to be a breakout concept over the next four years. Once RFID becomes universally commonplace, expect a major paradigm shift in process governance tools and approaches.