Excelling businesses are supported by well integrated processes within and across different functional areas. In order to maintain high performing processes in a rapidly changing business environment, it is essential to have a sound process management framework.
There are six elements to a process management framework.
A plant foreman oversees the operations of a plant. He is accountable for managing the resources and every aspect of the plant to ensure smooth operations. Sound processes also require ownership. The process owner is accountable for the design, documentation, performance, sustainment, and improvements. This person needs to have the aptitude for collaboration and a passion for operational excellence. A respected and connected individual, the process owner has his thumb on the pulse of changing process needs.
- Process metrics
It is necessary to establish process metrics as each process exists to deliver results. There are many ways to monitor process performance. They include measurements of input, output, productivity, quality, timeliness, and service satisfaction. Critical tasks and known bottlenecks need to be monitored closely so that problems could be identified quickly for prompt resolution. Process metrics provide insight for ongoing process improvement. Without them, it is not possible to detect business changes that place new demands on processes.
Frequent communication is an effective tact to reinforce important messages. By sharing process performance results, those who are actively involved in the process are keen to contribute to make a difference. For the rest of the business, communication builds visibility and invokes engagement. When employees hear about process importance and impacts on a regular basis, they become more cognizant of how processes affect their work. They start to incorporate process-centric thinking in their work area and become process leaders themselves.
- Process documentation
Many businesses have work instructions for various job roles and tasks. The disparate documents provide snap shots of specific work but they don’t offer a holistic view of the end-to-end process. This is one of the reasons why workers have little knowledge on the work upstream and downstream. As a result, they are unable to incorporate appropriate considerations for improvements beyond their own work group. It is essential to have a central repository to archive process documents such as the end-to-end process maps, business rules, issues, changes, performance trending, and resource assessment. The information provides references for process strategy, improvement opportunities assessment, and training materials.
It is imperative to have the alignment from the senior leadership team on the importance of process excellence. A lack of support will lead to constant debates on priorities and approaches to tackle business issues. It rests on the leadership team to communicate the need and the essence of being a process-centric organization. When there is visible support, employees at every level of the organization would keep process top-of-mind. Over time, a strong process orientation develops, fostering a culture for process excellence.
- Resource commitment
Continuous improvement requires resources to review the performance of the current state, understand the evolving needs, and implement rational changes to support the business. This includes access to people, expertise, tools, and capital. While it is not necessary to conduct a review of all processes at the same time, it would be prudent to establish a manageable schedule and allocate appropriate resources to monitor and enhance core processes.
Managing processes is similar to operating a plant. Apart from keeping the business running, it is imperative to have a structured framework for continuous improvement and strategic advancement.