Dealing With Process Commitment Phobia

On the edgeThe Process Clinic

– a confidential service for CxOs with process problems and nowhere else to turn. We’re here to help!

Dear Dr Process,

I thought I was a good CEO and ran a tight ship. Sure, my organization kept making the same mistakes.  We re-implemented SAP so many times that we made the careers of three generations of Deloitte partners.  Our efficiency programs were like Whack-a-Mole, increased costs popping up in one unit due to costs savings projects in another one. And we managed our outsourced relationships in a way that mostly just enriched the lawyers. But that’s normal, right? That’s what I thought at least. Until this weekend, when my best friend told me about Process Commitment Phobia.  Now my confidence is shattered – I’m writing to you from my iPad under the duvet at the Ritz Carlton – because, the way Alex told it, my organization definitely has PCP. Is there any cure?

Name and room number withheld

Dear Friend,

Don’t despair. These symptoms are certainly classic PCP.  But first you need to discreetly check some more to make sure of the diagnosis.  Here’s three easy tests. Ask your business transformation leaders if the start of every project feels like Groundhog Day – deploying teams to define yet again the business processes and their relationships with systems, documents, metrics and so on.  Then ask your Chief Risk Officer if her people feel one step removed, trying to track processes that are described and ‘managed’ in a mash up of formats and tools.  Finally, ask your Lean Sigma leader if his people are challenged to ensure that performance improvements are real and sustained.  If the answer’s ‘Yes’ to all three, then you can be sure it’s Process Commitment Phobia.

The good news is that PCP can be cured.  It’s hard work and you can’t do it overnight.  You’ll need to swap silo perspectives for joined-up thinking; extend the classic project focus to include long-term and sustainability; and to learn to embrace clarity in roles, responsibilities and accountability.

Your startpoint is to agree on a process platform for the enterprise.  A collaborative framework that uses the universal language of end-to-end process, and in the language of the business, not just IT. It will need to bring together all the stakeholders within a single governance environment – making it easy to get involved in the design and implementation of change. And, critically, it has to connect with operational reality. It has to help people across the organisation to get real work done. It has to be so intuitive, personalised and easy to use that it becomes ‘the way we work here’.  And it has to make it easy to feed back improvement ideas.

It’s tough medicine, I know. We’re just so used to seeing process as an overhead – as worthless hieroglyph fragments, ungoverned and in a variety of tools and formats. And it’s always comfortable to have vagueness and gray areas in accountability.  The sweetener I recommend is a spreadsheet.  Get your people to calculate how much time and cost would be saved, and black swans avoided, by having a complete understanding of the business.

So come out from under the duvet. Get dressed and go meet the Board as usual. And be open with them. Many of them will recognise PCP in their own behaviors.  Unless you can convince them to think differently, the organization will resist and snap back.  Treating PCP starts at the top.

Yours

The Process Doctor

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© Text Michael Gammage 2013