Sustainable Process Excellence? Hire A Showman

iStock_000019789823SmallMichael Fauscette has been setting out why, in the information age, making better decisions will drive the development of new operating models. It’s about moving, he has argued, from “make – sell” to “sense – respond” models which can leverage smart data (right information, right context, right person, right time and in a way that enables them to make the best decision).

Most recently, he’s looked at how you translate these ideas into reality. How would a business actually go about setting up and supporting both the culture and the technology infrastructure to support a “sense – respond” model? His answers (in full here) look at people, culture, process and tools.

As an aside, his observations re-confirm that enabling effective collaboration among all those involved in the design, approval and implementation of change requires a common language (which really has to be process, for reasons outlined here) and a common governance framework (which has to be a process management platform of some kind, for reasons set out here).

This stuff was high value anyway. In a more automated and decentralized world where agility, creativity and innovation are prized, a common language and a common governance framework for managing change are going to be vital. As in survival issues in the long run.

But he talks too – and this is really my point – about the increasingly strategic value of the content manager in a world where ‘information-sharing is power’, within the enterprise at least:

“In the old industrial model knowledge was considered a power base but in today’s connected and information overloaded environment that’s not practical or productive. Sharing information is the new power base. Content curators are essential to keeping the information flowing and helping it get to the right place in the organization.”

Which fits with my experience. Too often those responsible for building and maintaining a corporate process management platform (the ‘Process Center of Excellence Team’) see themselves as archivists and librarians (ie recorders of what should happen) rather than as real-time content curators and publishers (ie architects and advocates of a better way of working).

Now it’s true that many Process Centre of Excellence teams feel forced into a passive role by the low expectations of their peers and leaders. But without ongoing and imaginative promotion of the vision, without a continuing and creative focus on enhancing the user experience, without design thinking, energy levels drop and things go slowly downhill until… all you’re left with is just another rear-view quality system.

We’ve all seen it so many times.  People focus on tools and methodologies but sustainable success in building an enterprise platform for process excellence depends equally on pzazz and subtle showmanship.

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The Process Team Quietly Demolishing Silos

iStock_000002428072XSmallA shout out, on behalf of stockholders, for all the unsung heroes in process excellence.

This is the story of one:  the Head of Process Excellence in a global organization on a 7-year transformation program after rapid growth through acquisition. One of its strategic goals is to break down the silos and ensure more effective collaboration.

In his role as the final QA, my friend is under huge pressure to sign off the To-Be processes. But he’s refusing because there’s fog where there should be a clear line of sight.  The Global Process Owners are content within their silos and happy to fudge. They don’t welcome the clarity that will embed the changes.

It’s tough. In many circumstances, it could be career-limiting.  My friend has executive support, for now at least.  But there’s a lot of flak, with accusations flying of a major re-organization being obstructed by ‘process nerds who think their maps are more important’.

That’s process leadership.

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A Litmus Test For Process Craft

iStock_000016024702SmallIn a review with a global organization last week, the client explained how a major change program affecting sites around the world had ignored the defined processes:

“We just had to get on with closing down the [locations], we couldn’t follow the process.  It would delay us. We had very aggressive timescales. We just had to use common sense.”

It’s a litmus test.  When the chips are down, when business transformation is unfolding at pace, do people follow the process? Or do they use ‘common sense’ with all the risks that entails?

Making sure that process is simply the easiest way to do things, and thereby quietly embedding process discipline within the organization, is at the heart of this craft.

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© Text Michael Gammage 2013