Process Excellence: What’s To Be Done?

The PEX Week Europe survey results, just published, make for surprisingly gloomy reading. There seems to be something badly adrift in the world of Process Excellence.

Almost 1,000 ‘process professionals’ were surveyed last month. The single most worrying chart shows perceptions of process improvement in their organizations:

11.7% said that their process excellence program was either at risk or had already been dismantled (up from 5.7% in 2011)

15% said that process improvement was experiencing declining returns in their organization

17% reported that effort and interest in process improvement has peaked.

Which is surprising. My own take is that continuous improvement is very much part of the zeitgeist in the CxO suite, and that process excellence is becoming more widely understood as the other side of that coin.  So why do ‘process professionals’ seem so downbeat?

It could be simply a European problem, but I suspect not.  More likely perhaps is that many organizations hugely over-invested in Lean and Six Sigma programmes that failed to deliver. They failed to some extent, of course, because they were wildly over-sold.  But many of today’s ‘process professionals’ might looking back nostalgically at those heady days.

It is plainly ridiculous that process excellence should be getting such a bad press. So what’s to be done?

At the risk of your groans at this point, here’s some reasons why I see the enterprise process management platform as the missing piece in this jigsaw:

It links process improvement with top level business strategy.  It addresses directly the single biggest process excellence challenge reported in the PEX survey. It provides direct line of sight between the operating model and the operational processes.

It ensures sustainable improvement, the second biggest challenge reported in the survey. An enterprise process management platform allows a pipeline of improvement projects to be identified, analysed, designed and delivered – in collaboration with the business. So there’s engagement and adoption: cost cuts stick and there’s no organizational snapback after change.

It gives meaning to metrics.  A third of survey respondents reported that “My organization measures so many metrics that it’s difficult to know which ones are important”.  Define KPIs as leading indicators of the health of the end-to-end processes and they have context. Even better, when a traffic light goes red, I can see immediately what’s upstream, what’s downstream and who are the stakeholders: I can start to fix it quicker.

And, if that wasn’t enough, it allows risks and controls to be embedded and managed within the context of the operational processes, so compliance and risk management is easier – which will get the attention of the CFO at least and so address another reported challenge: the lack of executive buy-in.

With an enterprise process management platform in place, ‘process professionals’ can do what they do best.  And feel loved again.

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19 Nov 2012   No Other Corporate Asset Is Wasted So Spectacularly

© Text Michael Gammage 2013

Translating An Operating Model Into Real Work

Bringing in a Big 4 firm to create a new target operating model (TOM) has become de rigeur. But how many operating models are ever put to work? Not many. Some are just displayed reverentially on a pedestal in the C-Suite.  Most are ‘executed’ by an expensive army of consultants – but with very mixed results.

It’s a big issue. Social, mobile and cloud technologies are driving ever more rapid business model innovation and associated process change. But many organizations are locked into ‘a tragic pattern’ (as Brad Power has discussed on his HBR Blog): The CEO launches a new change program with great fanfare, only to shelve it a few years later with little to show for great expenditures of time and consulting fees.

Strategy to Reality - 1The capability to execute well must be one of the keys to breaking out of this cycle.

Why are so few grand plans well executed?  The swirling fog between the TOM vision and the operational realities, for a start. There is no line of sight between the TOM as a ppt deck and the real business.

The primary mechanism for translating strategy into reality – integrated, holistic perspectives and end-to-end processes – doesn’t exist. Instead there are a myriad process fragments, in multiple tools and formats, ‘managed’ in functional silos within a feeble governance framework.

So the exec team has a TOM roadmap, steering wheel and dashboard – but only tenuous linkages to the engine, transmission and brakes.

A process management platform provides the multi-dimensional matrix within which an operating model can be executed – reliably, efficiently and, in compliance terms, safely.

It’s the ability to execute that really matters. It’s what underlies sustainable improvement. In a complex and fast-moving world, that just can’t be done efficiently any more with ppt and email…

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20 Jun 2012    Process: The Emerging Global Business Language

© Text Michael Gammage 2012