By Emad Elias, PMP
Do you find yourself wanting to dive into analysis techniques like the five whys of root cause analysis or asking a client to clearly define a problem before moving to the solution? Or perhaps you want to facilitate a group in getting to a robust and streamlined To Be process. Many of us think that using the appropriate process improvement methodology can solve most business problems. The challenge, however, is that most executives do not want to think about that level of detail. They are indeed interested and willing to invest in ‘getting the process right’ though.
So what’s a process professional to do? The answer is making the connection between delighting customers to influence business outcomes while driving the organization’s performance. The graphic below shows how process professionals can leverage their knowledge of strategy and process by approaching executives along a fairly clear path. All executives have customers. All customers can affect business outcomes. Further, all business outcomes can affect corporate performance. The ‘stuff’ in the middle is process. In other words, process improvement is the means to the end.
Staying focused on customers and business outcomes is not a new formula for an executive. Executives are well aware that they must achieve certain goals and that customers must be pleased with their products and/or services. What an executive might not be aware of is that process improvement can eliminate much of the uncertainty of ‘How’ to achieve their goals. If they believe this will improve performance across their enterprise, then you will have achieved success as a process professional.
A few guidelines that will help in your quest:
1. Language: While many of us are enamored with our terms and acronyms, many people are not. Learning to use words and phrases that communicate that best practices can be improved in a targeted way using a change management plan to proactively solicit and act upon feedback is a major component in a winning formula. Avoid words such as As Is or To Be model, swim lanes, inputs, outputs, entry and exit criteria, etc. Using words such as improvement to quality, performance, or outcomes through use of process will help
2. Glue: Process improvement usually applies in some kind of operational environment. But similar to the way that IT has become a strategic partner in many organizations, process improvement is also quite strategic. Every organization is interested in efficiency, lowered costs, and happy employees. If nothing else, process improvement not only helps to do these things but helps to standardize the way business is done. This leads to more often meeting expectations and even exceeding them both for employees and end customers which again, is part of the winning formula.
3. Metrics: Process professionals know that metrics can be powerful in making decisions. What may not be intuitive though is the important work to define a baseline for the metrics. This is not only important for the organization, it’s also important for the process professional to be able to characterize their success. Certainly, fewer steps and shorter durations to get work done, lowered costs, and improved cycle times are all suggested metrics. But customer satisfaction, quantification of throughput of products or services, predictability, increased lead times to delivery, variances from plan, as well as metrics tied directly to business outcomes are also important.
In summary, as process professionals, all of us can tend to get ‘geeky’ about our work, i.e., we may use terminology or jargon that is not well understood by executives or managers, or we may try to propose solutions to problems before we clearly understand all the stakeholders and their needs. As simple as it sounds, the key to solving the equation may be making an intuitive and clear connection between the delivering remarkable customer service and the business outcomes executives want to achieve. We can this connection then to influence the ‘glue’ (process models, frameworks, improvement, etc.) you will insert to fit the pieces together and drive performance of the organization to boost your numbers.