Accelerating Process Culture

It seems like distant past when big companies rely on individual heroes to facilitate process initiatives. They are long-service employees who became the experts of how things and processes work in the company. They are always consulted because of their inherent authority– business owners and managers listen to them. Think about them as company elders and gurus whom we seek advice from when things go wrong and consulted whenever changes are planned.  

When a company relies and is solely dependent on its individual heroes for change and process enhancement, it is on its 1st level of process culture maturity.

Process Maturity Levels

The second stage of process culture maturity is the Diverse Approach.  This is when the company starts to utilize standard methods and best practices to drive process design and innovation. Oftentimes at this stage, different areas in the organization implore varying approaches and therefore, less synergy is achieved. Standard operating procedures (SOP) start to shape in each department and documentation becomes an integral part of process implementation. In many cases, at this point, IT and business approaches tend to clash and technology becomes the focus of project implementation.

Companies move up to the Model Integration stage when it builds more synergies throughout the organization. Very successful multinational companies such as P&G, CEMEX, and ING DIRECT take advantage of Model Integration by consolidating functions and developing its shared services. P&G, for example, has established Global Business Services (GBS) — a shared service organization that provides the company a platform for continuous global growth while maintaining values of innovation, service, customer responsiveness and business efficiency. Companies at this level adapt a consolidated method to design and implement business models using standard processes and tools. The project team discipline ultimately improves as management breaks silos and approaches process and technology implementation equally.  The common tendency is for companies to establish global standards and to consolidate both IT infrastructure and human resources, thereby reducing cost of operations.

The final step to Process Culture Maturity occurs when innovation and change in business practices through process understanding are consistently promoted within the company. When executives passionately embrace process thinking, they are able to promote innovation more confidently when implementing new technologies.

Many organizations have gone a long way from the days when company individual heroes were the sole initiators of change and process innovation.  Yet it’s difficult to predict what comes next — as technology evolves, industries consolidate, and Web 2.0 quickly becoming the new platform.

Four Key Elements of a Process Initiative

No two process implementation initiatives are the same. It varies in scope, objectives and limitations because of budget, time, resources, and complexities. Although process initiative projects may vary, there are four key elements which assure good results. These four critical items are: (1) Process Definition, (2) Process and Activity Roles, (3) Available Tools and (4) Training.

Plain and simple reality- these elements are inseparably linked. The absence of one element will hugely affect the result of the process initiative. On the contrary, if the factors all are well attended to, you can expect excellent results.             

Many process initiatives fail because:

• Processes are not well designed and documented. People in operations were not involved in the design process.
• Processes are well defined but roles are not clearly assigned in the organization as to who is responsible and / or accountable for a certain process.
• In some instances, limitations in the tool or lack thereof make the organization resort to workaround and this is time-consuming and costly.
• All systems go but people are not well trained, resulting to inconsistency in process execution

To give a more tangible example, let’s say that you are implementing a logistics dispatch system. You have selected the platform and made sure that it is customized based on the needs of the operation. During the process design, different levels of the organization were involved and consulted. You came up with a clear and concise documentation of the processes and roles that will perform the activities. Roles are defined, assigned to personnel in the organization and was clearly communicated. System procedures and policies are in place.

Then you and your team decided to forego the well planned training program that you have scheduled to speed up the rollout of the initiative and reduce travel costs for people who will need to come from different dispatch locations. You are comfortable with the training manuals and the quick guides. Communication is already done and the operational support structure is in place.

Your decision to forego one key process initiative element will result to the following possible outcomes:

• Dispatch process will be executed inconsistently depending on the user’s personal understanding of the manuals and materials.
• You can be flooded with manual errors due to the user’s unfamiliarity of the system.  This results to spending more time in correcting and stabilizing these errors.
• You risk affecting customer service delivery because of probable incidents like wrong orders and delayed deliveries

The project team in the example above seemed to have done everything correctly.  However, they made one crucial and costly mistake.  User training, as with the other elements, is equally important.  Neglecting one of the key elements could result in project failure.

This does not mean to say, that the project team must focus solely on these four key elements. These cannot substitute existing important process and project implementation methodologies and practices. These key elements are only intended to complement whatever process implementation methodology you follow.

Process Elements