A process improvement initiative was kicked off a year ago as a result of a pressing need to boost productivity. Subsequently, various changes have been implemented. Crippling bottlenecks were eliminated. The systems are better integrated to facilitate smooth transitions of work across departments. A handful of improvement opportunities have also been identified for future implementation. With the project team disbanded, who would carry on the work?
While you might not need a formal project team to maintain the momentum, it is advantageous to assign an owner for continuous improvement. There are five reasons for the process owner.
- Keep the focus top-of-mind. The owner has the mandate to monitor the state of the operation. She establishes key measures for the purpose of gauging performance at critical junctures of the key processes. She has a good handle on the performance levers. She is able to pinpoint problems quickly because of her familiarity with the processes.
- Stay abreast of issues. The owner becomes the ‘go-to’ person when issues come up. People know what information they need to collect, may be perform some preliminary analysis prior to presenting the problem to the owner. The structured approach encourages problem resolution at the source. The process owner is informed of the issues. She provides guidance when required.
- Avoid disparate and inconsistent efforts. The functional organizational structure continues to pose the risk of silo-thinking. With the process owner, she has a big-picture view of all process issues. She looks out for any pattern of recurrences. She manages overarching problems that warrant participation from multiple areas. This helps to minimize inconsistent approaches to handling problems that are attributable to common causes. This works well when designing solutions that serve the same stakeholders.
- Access to expertise. The process owner could be an individual. It could also be a small working team. The ‘owner’ has access to funds and subject matter experts. This eliminates adhoc approaches to tackle random problems that arise unexpectedly. The continuity builds a repository of expertise, trust and support of the work.
- Ongoing commitment. The recognition of process as an integral part of running a successful business requires ongoing effort to make continuous improvement. It is inadequate to strike a project team to manage the problems when things get ugly. Competitive businesses make a conscious effort to ensure that their processes are effective. Having a process owner is a way to maintain the momentum for continuous improvement.
Continuous process improvement doesn’t take a lot of effort when you put the proper accountability and approach in place.