Empowering Process-based Management
Shaping the design and sustaining the operation of process management and improvement throughout an organization requires new ways of thinking and working. This column discusses important strategies for effective and sustained process-based management.
Transition to process-based management is a continuous, often complicated, journey. Consistent application of key strategies assists in resolving issues as they arise, or indeed before they arise, and in keeping all stakeholders focused on the proper application of process-based management.
Focusing on these 10 strategies will greatly assist in establishing process-based management:
- Primacy of process
- Organization charts and process architectures are totally different
- The Process Owner has no authority
- Focus on the achievable
- Change the performance of the organization
- Process improvement AND process management
- Track BPM maturity development
- Nurture a process mindset
- Build capability everywhere
- Use it!
1. Primacy of Process
The idea of cross-functional value creation, accumulation, and delivery is fundamental. Every organization delivers its goods and/or services through collaboration across the organization and with external partners.
A business process is a collection of activities that transforms one or more inputs into one or more outputs. Many resources are involved in the management and execution of a process — materials, people, systems, infrastructure, information, technology, facilities, policies, rules, regulations — and these must also be seen to be integral to the process.
Business processes are the way every organization delivers value to customers and other external stakeholders. By themselves, separate functional areas — boxes on the organization chart — cannot deliver value to external parties.
This also means that every organization executes its strategy via its business processes.
The starting point for effective organizational management must be to understand, manage, and optimize business processes.
- Keep focused on the processes — put the process first in every conversation.
- Document the process architecture from the top down starting with organizational strategy.
- Keep it simple!
- In discussing other issues like EFQM, ISO, IT, etc. start with process — management is about executing, managing, and improving processes.
2. Organization charts and process architectures are totally different
An organization chart describes reporting structures and team memberships and provides a structure for authority and decision making. It remains a very important document; nothing about process-based management makes any change in how an organization chart is created or used.
An organization's process architecture describes how it collaborates to create, accumulate, and deliver value to investors, partners, and other stakeholders. Especially at its higher levels, the architecture describes the cross-functional processes enabling that collaboration. Whether documented or not, every organization has a process architecture; having a documented architecture means that the cross-functional perspective can be actively managed.
Nothing about documenting and using the process architecture makes any change to the organization chart and the authorities that it defines. The process architecture and organization chart are separate, unrelated artifacts.
A common problem is thinking of the process architecture as a new form of organization chart. People who look to see themselves in the process architecture look in vain.
Because both the architecture and the chart are derived from the organizational strategy, there may appear to be superficial similarities. This is just superficial.
The process architecture and organization chart are completely different artifacts.
- Don't let anyone think that the process architecture is a 'new org chart'.
- The architecture says nothing about who executes or manages processes.
- The work of one person or team may be spread across different processes, located in different parts of the architecture.
3. The Process Owner has no authority
While it is possible to create the Process Owner (PO) role giving it ultimate control over all process changes, this approach generally causes disharmony with those who already have responsibility for the execution of the various parts of the process. Better for the PO role to be one of oversight rather than control.
Remove all debate about who is in charge by making it clear that the PO has no authority. The permission of the PO is not required to start, stop, or change anything.
The PO is the 'voice of the process', monitoring performance and ideas for change and making recommendations to those who execute the process. Mechanisms should also be created to allow the PO to escalate any issue to a competent authority (often a Process Council) as required.
Make the Process Owner role one of influence, not authority.
- Emphasize repeatedly that the creation of the Process Owner role makes no change to the work and authorities defined by the organization chart.
- Be clear that the Process Owner role is about influence, and not authority.
4. Focus on the achievable
Having documented the process architecture to three levels of core and two levels of management and support processes, some 200+ processes will have been named. The temptation may be to begin managing all of those immediately. In every organization, no matter how much urging might come to "do it all now," this is unlikely to be successful. Indeed, it is likely to seriously damage the process-based management initiative.
It is important for the organization to ease into process-based management ensuring that generic approaches are properly tailored to work in the specific environment, and that there are great examples of success. Work on a few processes at a time and as confidence and success builds, spread more rapidly through, at least, all the high-impact processes.
Select five processes as initial demonstrations and get the circles turning for them alone. This means establishing KPIs and targets, collecting performance data, creating reporting mechanisms, and establishing process governance. After, say, two months —when the initial processes are successfully under active management — select another five, perhaps 10, and repeat the sequence.
Although initially slower, this incremental approach will more quickly and successfully bring all high-impact processes under high-quality management.
- Avoid the fatal trap of trying to do too much too quickly.
- Incremental, escalating success will get there faster.
- Test, tailor, improve, and demonstrate.
5. Change the performance of the organization
The purpose of process management and improvement is to change organizational performance — to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities. For process-based management to work sustainably it must clearly contribute to organizational performance improvement.
It is not enough to produce artifacts, frameworks, and models; process-based management needs to be a working management system. No organization has a business problem called "we need more process models" or even "we need more KPIs."
To be successful, process-based management must be seen and experienced to be a new solution, not a new problem.
- Track, capture, and publish process success stories.
- Capture and report both the 'hard data' about improvement and the 'soft data' of testimonials and personal support.
- Prove it works!
6. Process improvement AND process management
Organizations need continuous process management as well as continuous process improvement.
There are two things wrong with continuous improvement in most organizations: (a) it's not continuous, and (b) the improvement is not optimal.
Most organizations may be doing some form of process improvement, but how do they decide which processes to improve and in which order? How do they ensure that process improvement is optimized?
Process management continually assesses process performance across the process architecture and makes evidence-based decisions about which processes should be improved first, based on the impact of current problems and possible opportunities.
To get the best results out of continuous process improvement, we need continuous process management.
- Make deliberate choices based on hard evidence about which processes should be analyzed and improved next.
- Good process management is a prerequisite for good process improvement.
7. Track BPM maturity development
Maturity assessments were first created for large software development projects and have since been applied to many other areas, including BPM. Five levels of the maturity cover a range of very low (or no) maturity (level 1) to very high maturity (level 5).
Most organizations have a BPM maturity level around 2, some are lower, and an increasing number (albeit still quite low) are at level 3 and above.
BPM maturity can be measured easily without interruption to daily operations. Annual BPM maturity assessments allow an organization to stay on track with a well-defined development roadmap. The assessments also raise the profile and status of the process-based management initiative.
Enhanced BPM Maturity delivers better process management and improvement, i.e., better organizational performance.
- Measuring and tracking BPM maturity help to maintain focus.
- Maturity targets drive development plans.
8. Nurture a process mindset
Process-based management is a different way to think about an organization, how it delivers value to its customers, and how it should be managed.
It requires a significant change of mindset; the development of a process-aware culture across the organization. This can't happen automatically, it takes a well-designed communications and change plan along with constant reinforcement and, most importantly, demonstrations of success.
Effective process-based management requires a shared process mindset across the organization; it requires a process-aware culture.
- Develop a comprehensive, multi-channel communications plan to get the process message well established across the organization.
- Don't assume that explaining something once means it is now understood and embraced.
9. Build capability everywhere
It's tempting to think that an Office of BPM (aka BPM Group, BPM Center of Excellence, etc.) is where all the process work gets done. If all process management and improvement activity is focused on this central group, they quickly become a bottleneck and then start to prevent, or at least delay, process performance improvement.
The proper role of a central support group is to improve the capability of everyone else in the organization to do effective process management and improvement work.
In a process-aware organization everyone is a process analyst.
- The role of the 'BPM group' is to enhance capability across the organization.
- The subject matter experts in any organization's processes are those executing the process — perhaps they've been doing so for years and already have lots of improvement ideas.
10. Use it!
The ultimate goal of all process management and improvement work is the improvement of organizational performance.
Having documented a process architecture, assigned KPIs and targets, and appointed Process Owners, the process-based management system must be used as a key management tool. The new process architecture is not a new wall poster; it's meant to be in daily use for strategic and operational decision making. It shows how the organization creates, accumulates, and delivers value to customers, so of course it should be the primary focus of management effort.
The M in BPM stands for Management. Do it. Use it.
- Leadership at every level is required to ensure that the process architecture is a valuable management tool.
- When problems and opportunities arise, the first management question should be "which process is involved?"
Adopting process-based management as the primary mode of organizational management is a big change. Close attention must be paid to the strategies outlined above if it is to be effective. None of this is particularly difficult if there is strong leadership along with clear and compelling reasons for the change.
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