Process Management Pathways and Pitfalls
By: Jim Clemmer
Jim Clemmer is an international keynote speaker, workshop leader, author, and president of The CLEMMER Group, a North American network of organization, team, and personal improvement consultants based in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. His other bestsellers include Firing on All Cylinders: The Service/Quality System for High-Powered Corporate Performance, and his most recent book, Growing the Distance: Timeless Principles for Personal, Career, and Family Success. His web site is http://www.clemmer.net/
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"A process is only as strong as its weakest think."
- Call it the Principle of Bumbling Bureaucracy — when left on their own,
processes naturally turn inward to serve management and departmental needs
rather than the organization's key customers and partners. Improve processes
from the outside in. Draw a customer-partner chain to get very clear about
just who the process should really be serving (customers and partners,
not bureaucrats or management) and what the desired outcome is. Next determine
the customers' most important measures of the process and how well it's
performing. Use this performance gap data to establish breakthrough goals
and/or continuous improvement targets.
- The broader and more comprehensive the process you're attempting to improve,
the more senior management needs to be directly involved. Strategic processes
(those few core or macro processes that span your organization) need a
hands-on executive owner. He or she is the champion of that process and
accountable to improving it across its many vertical or functional chimneys.
Major reengineering efforts demand huge blocks of key senior managers'
time and attention.
- Give lots of time and attention to the diagnosis stage of process management.
There's a huge amount of learning to be done here. If a process has never
been diagrammed or "blueprinted", no one really knows who and
what's all involved. The bigger (and ironically more important) the process,
the truer that is.
- Most of these cross-functional processes were never designed in the first
place (how can you reengineer something that was never engineered to begin
with?) Rather, they're a haphazard collection of personal steps, old habits,
cultural holdovers, and local procedures. Most of the pieces exist in somebody's
head and have never been mapped out and standardized. That's why there's
so much variation, unpredictability, misunderstanding, errors and rework
as one group hands off their part of the process to the next group.
- Make sure everyone involved in outlining, managing, diagnosing, and improving
the process are well trained. Managers and improvement teams need to know
how to collect, analyze, and act on data so that decision making is based
on facts and an accurate picture of what's really going on. Ensure that
team leaders and members have strong interpersonal skills. These include
facilitating successful meetings, managing conflict, confronting issues,
team leadership, being a team player, and so on.
- Make sure that managers and improvement teams involved in process management
are operating in a data rich environment. Process management depends heavily
on data and analysis to gather reliable information about the scope of
a process, how it's performing (measurement), and what customers/partners
expect of it. This data should be highly visual (lots of diagrams, charts,
and graphs) and broadly available so everyone can see the big picture.
Data-based tools and techniques include Cause-and-Effect Diagrams, Flowcharts,
Check Sheets, Pareto Charts, Histograms, Scatter Diagrams, Affinity Charts,
Tree Diagrams, and the like.
- Most managers underestimate how much time, attention, and support process
improvement teams need. Unguided process improvement teams can be detrimental
to your organization's performance. They busily set about improving things
that don't matter, make changes that unknowingly make things worse somewhere
else in the organization, or just squander precious organization time and
resources. If your management team can't give improvement teams the support
they need, reduce their numbers to a level that you can support. If you're
not sure what that level of support is, ask.
- Choose processes you're going to radically reengineer very carefully. The changes will be highly disruptive and tie up huge amounts of time and resources. Make sure you're leveraging those major investments in processes that will have a significant, strategic impact on your organization's performance.
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© Copyright 2001 The CLEMMER Group
Books by Jim Clemmer
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