The third vector of THE LEADERSHIP COMPASS is ‘Processes.’ In the previous three blogs we identified the Total Business Success™ model that comprises this compass and the two of the four vectors—culture and people. The two vectors that involve the most immediate performance improvement opportunities for a business are its people and processes. And, based on work in organizations for over 20 years, both in the USA and internationally, we concluded that these two vectors are two sides of the same “coin.”
For example, when an organization has underperforming individuals involved in a work process, then that process (and the technology used to enable it) are also sub-optimized. Employees with higher capabilities for executing a software-based process more often do as expected than those with less know-how in this area. Similarly, employees who are capable but not motivated to do a process as expected are more likely to cut corners or execute at a lower standard with performance again compromised.
All organizations have three types of processes: 1) core, fundamental processes (such as selling, operations, finance), 2) managerial processes (such as hiring, managing performance, and developing people), and 3) business-specific processes (such as research, development, IT). And, for all types of organizations, (regardless of size, sector, or product/services) its processes are practical mechanisms required for successfully executing both its strategy and culture. When a process is defective, it also affects the performance of people by either making it more difficult for a capable person to perform successfully or de-motivating them because of the flawed process. Together, they are the “who” and “how” required to get work done.
Both our experience and research indicate that there is a wide range of waste in most organization’s processes, often as much at 30%. This takes different forms such as wasted time, effort, resources, and/or money. By improving resources an organization is able to redeploy its assets to increase its business success. It is important to understand that “waste” is different from “cost” though, obviously, eliminating waste will typically reduce that cost in that process. Common areas for performance improvement that we have seen in our work with organizations include workflow practices, paperwork management, communications, work completion time, role clarity and agreement, and effective teamwork.
Since the 1950’s process improvements efforts have been implemented through various rational and statistical decision- making tools and techniques referred to through these decades as rational management, quality circles, business processes improvement, reengineering, and six sigma. Their common focus is to make organizations (and indirectly people) more efficient. These tools and techniques fall into three types that parallel the different phases of a rational, more scientific problem-solving process. Here are some examples of the types of tools and techniques that can significantly help improve performance when used for the appropriate problem-solving phase objective/focus:
Phase 1 type tools: Discovery Focus—Identifying, Defining the problem (The 5 Whys, Root Cause Analysis, Pareto Diagrams, Priority Issues Screen)
Phase 2: Deciding Focus— Resolving the problem (Options Sorter, Risks Assessment, Decision-Making Criteria Test, Process Map)
Phase 3: Doing Focus—Implementing the solutions and Follow-Through (Gap Action Plan, Task Implementation Plan, Checklists)
The Sigmoid Curve is a key process improvement concept that indicates there are two different points when an organization is likely to change. Most organizations are reactive, meaning they wait until performance declines before improvements are made. By contrast, more enlightened organizations make such changes much earlier while performance is still on the up slope, realizing that it is not likely to last without acting proactively before conditions deteriorate, taking advantage of employee openness, input, and creativity that are more likely to occur before distress occurs. Some organizations conduct a Processes & Practices Performance Audit to assess whether their organization is in need of key improvements as an initial step for considering action in this vector of their Leadership Compass.
If you would like a complimentary copy of this audit to assess whether your organization could benefit from key process improvements at this time, contact me today. I will be glad to send you this tool as a member’s benefit in the TrainingIndustry.com Leadership Community.
Dr. Michael O’Connor is a recognized practical visionary and problem-solving author, consultant, coach, and mentor focused on winning performance. He is the creator of the Optimal Business Performance Model and author and co-author of many resources, including the best-selling ‘Winning Culture’ book, MANAGING BY VALUES as well as THE LEADER WITHIN, GPS FOR SUCCESS, and PEOPLE SMART. He is the founder of Life Associates, The Center For Managing By Values, O’Connor Associates, and their current successor company Potentia. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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