Learn how a foundation that puts your people at the center can lead to an effective Process Excellence Program.
An organization is more than all its buildings, technology, and corporate assets. It is really about the people who make it all work. And it is the people who contribute to company culture.
Regardless of the culture, whether hip like Pepsi or quirky and fun like Southwest Airlines, the companies that thrive and survive are those that put their people – and processes – at the center of their culture.
By incorporating process into your culture, your people will think about colleagues as valuable assets and consider the impact of their choices on others: How will doing “this thing” differently impact Bob? Will it make his job easier and better? Will it make the company more successful?
Instead of only thinking in their silo, people in the organization will think upstream and downstream if they have a foundation built on processes.
This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a coordinated effort and a game plan. That’s where an effective Process Excellence (PEX) Program can really accelerate an organization’s success.
Multiple Approaches to Process Excellence Programs
There are multiple paths to get to a PEX Program, but they usually happen in a couple of ways:
- Scenario 1: Start with projects that grow into a PEX Center of Excellence (COE).
- Scenario 2: Start with a PEX COE, but stress organizational change management and executive support.
PEX Programs usually doesn’t happen organically. I’ve never heard of a groundswell of mid-level managers across the enterprise coming together to form a coalition of process-first thinkers.
A lot of times, you need to first initiate a process improvement project. As the project grows, and people begin to abandon the silo mentality, more people across the enterprise will begin to see the enormous value processes provide.
Directors and executives begin to get excited and want a piece of the pie that is PEX. This is where people start to think “how do we accelerate adoption and standardization,” which then naturally leads to a PEX Center of Excellence and an overall program.
Other times, an outside influencer pushes organizations to realize they are standing on a “burning platform” and if they don’t change their ways (quickly) they will ultimately fail.
It takes a declaration from a strong leader to begin the journey towards a process-first mentality. With this much change, you must stress change management.
Once the idea of having a center of excellence starts growing within your organization, you can start grooming the right people for it.
Again, it’s the people who drive your process initiatives!
Components of Process Excellence Programs
In successful process excellence programs, you have three critical components. More on those below.
Center of Excellence
The Center of Excellence should be a core group of people who live process first. They should be champions within the organization espousing the culture of process first.
This group will develop the traditional definition of Process Governance: standards of executing process initiatives, process owner responsibilities, continuous process improvement, process documentation nomenclature, process rollout procedures, communication plans, and KPIs of success.
When someone in the organization wants to start a project, the COE should be involved by providing accelerators, documentation templates, guidance, and input to the upstream and downstream impacts to the organization.
If a project’s outcome negatively impacts people downstream in the process, wouldn’t you like to know?
As process projects roll-out, by nature they are going to affect people and their day-to-day activities. This disruption can ultimately determine if the project is successful or not.
For example, you spent a year in a silo developing the next best thing to help co-workers. After you roll it out and no one uses it, would you consider that a success? You shouldn’t.
Enabling change goes hand-in-hand with any process projects. Process projects impact people across silos – from the front of the house to the back. Imagine a project that impacts sales, R&D, supply chain, and finance teams. That requires a lot of different types of messages to a lot of people.
Even if only 10% of the workforce is impacted, that includes a lot of people – and can cause a significant disruption, including changes in morale and questioning of decisions. In some instances, it could cause a negative shift in people who tend to have a good attitude.
Because people are your most valuable asset, wouldn’t you want to involve them so they know what is going on and can contribute to success?
You’ve completed your first process project and it’s rolled out, but how do you really know that your people are following the process?
Ensuring process governance (or adherence) is just as important as the process itself. You might have the best process in the world (or the worst), but if no one is following it, how do you really know how good or bad it is.
And if you have a bad process and no one is following it, how will you ever know you need to improve? Yes, that does seem a bit odd, but following a bad process gives you a baseline so you know if you’re trending up or down. It’s not that people don’t want to follow the process. It’s probably that they just don’t know what the process is.
A good first step: document the process by putting it on paper and making sure it’s easily accessible. It’s also good to create instruction manuals or work aids as well as have process champions and owners mentor people on what the process is.
In recent years, many enterprise technology solutions have become available that can assist in process adherence.
Stay tuned for Part 5 of our series, “Technology: Automating a Bad Process Just Gets You Bad Results Faster,” where we’ll explain how technology can help and hurt.
Having a strong PEX Program is important to an organization that wants to grow in process maturity.
But coaching and mentoring your people – your most valuable resources – is what really moves you up the maturity curve.
Before you begin on that journey, you need to know where you are. As Lao Tzu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”