Taking Process Excellence to the Next Level
Many firms are actually quite good at improving performance on projects of small scope within traditional organizational boundaries. But, while most have the appetite to improve their process excellence (PE), many firms struggle to sustain improvements when these are exported across large business processes, such as order fulfillment and new product introduction. Operations Leadership Exchange (OLEx) clients should use our resources on exporting PE across the business here (click on the exporting PE tab).
Success in executing enterprise-wide PE projects requires a dramatically different set of leadership behaviors. Let’s start with the basic premise that value is created for the company and its customers by the flows of work that cross organizational boundaries. While projects of small scope within functional departments can be useful as a means to reduce costs within a team or function, they can often harm performance elsewhere in these enterprise-wide flows of work. This phenomenon is the single most compelling reason to take process excellence to the next level.
Why Large Improvement Efforts Differ
Unlike projects of small scope where the senior manager of a department has clear authority and control, larger improvement efforts invariably require that leaders act to assure broader cross-functional collaboration, exercise more discipline in measuring performance for customers, craft a more compelling case for change (for OLEx clients) that resonates with different and broader audiences, and – due to a higher level of complexity – pay more attention to project and educational pacing.
Since most end-to-end business processes such as “inquiry to order,” “order to delivery” and “idea to launch” affect customers, the redesign of end-to-end business processes should start with measuring what matters to customers, for example, customer voice.
This requires an estimate of current performance in terms of the timeliness and quality of products and services provided. Examples of the type of measures needed are perfect order delivery (“on-time,” “complete,” “error free”) and perfect new product introduction (“when promised,” “meets customer expectations,” and “works right first time”).
Supply chain and operations managers often find it challenging to source such customer-focused data due to a lack of functional connection to the sales, marketing or customer service groups. Yet taking the time to estimate current performance, even if it is via the use of random samples, is essential in setting realistic performance improvement goals and providing data that will be useful in crafting a compelling case for change.
OLEx clients can use our Voice-of-the-Customer Effectiveness Diagnostic to identify specific areas of under-performance, and which OLEx resources are most appropriate. Also, use our Total Customer Experience Resource Center to understand customer priorities and integrate these customer insights into products and services.
Driving Change Throughout the Organization
To push change across the organization, leaders must create and communicate a compelling case for change (for OLEx clients) and orchestrate the deep commitment of people at various levels and in various departments. A compelling case for change is typically built on either an imminent threat or a perceived major opportunity, and the best test of this is whether people step forward as willing followers and whether they act with urgency.
This is where viewing operations from the customer’s point of view becomes important. In building a compelling case for change, highlighting the gap between current and desired performance for customers can be a powerful way to touch people’s emotions.
In this respect, the factors that motivate employees to act are often different from those that resonate with the members of the senior leadership team. Factors such as growth, profit, and competitive advantage are likely to capture the attention of executives, while other factors such as customer satisfaction and pride in their work may do more to engage employees in the case for change (for OLEx clients).
Success at executing improvement projects of large scope also requires more attention to pacing. Due to higher levels of complexity, the right pacing is essential. Leaders must assure that project teams do not dive into too much detail in the early stages of an improvement project in terms of the time and effort needed for modeling and measurement. Similarly, it’s important to maintain momentum by way of early wins. Lastly, since projects of larger scope invariably require some change to information systems, it’s essential to form a strong partnership with IT.
Measuring what matters to customers, crafting a compelling case for change, paying attention to pacing and capturing early wins are just three of the critical tactics needed for success whether you are just about to move to the next level in process excellence or if you have already attempted and struggled with improvement projects of larger scope.
Andrew Spanyi is the author of three books: More for Less: The Power of Process Management, Business Process Management is a Team Sport: Play It to Win! and Operational Leadership. He has delivered keynote speeches at conferences in Canada, the USA, Europe, Australia and Africa. Andrew was affiliated with The Babson College Process Management Research Center and he is on the editorial board for the BPMInstitute.org and a member of the Board of Advisors at ABPMP. Please visit www.spanyi.com for further details.