Leadership of a Function – Part 3
When managing a process issue there are three areas which must always be considered.
1. The procedures for the process must be clearly defined. This is sometimes called a Standard Operating Procedure, or SOP. Unfortunately writing SOP’s is a boring, tedious and time-consuming task. Not every process requires clear operating procedures, but most do and certainly all the important ones do.
The value of a Standard Operating Procedure is that it allows individuals who are executing the process to do it in the most efficient fashion, as has been previously determined and documented in the Standard Operating Procedure. SOP’s provide the line manager with the confidence that the task will be done in a particular fashion and allows other processes to link with that one. As processes become linked together, each with its own SOP, there is now predictability of outcome.
When processes are changed, as they inevitably will be in an organization committed to continuous process improvement, then the procedure needs to be rewritten to reflect that process change. Clear steps to be followed by everyone in a process ensures that minimal errors occur, folklore is not part of the process, and “band aid work-arounds,” which are idiosyncratic in nature, are eliminated. A world-class process has procedures that are well defined, predictable, replicable, and which are known to generate the desired results.
Whether the task is to create a series of gala evenings for opening concerts, or record heart rate readings, there should be a defined procedure in place for doing it in the correct and most efficient fashion.
2. Processes need quantified measures. Measure everything possible. The more effective you become at measuring, the more effective you will become at predicting outcomes, and changing outcomes where necessary.
Because processes are intended to produce results they can be measured. These quantified measures allow those responsible for executing various steps of the process to monitor how well they are doing, and adjust as required. Once the target is clear it is much easier to determine how close you are to dead center.
Every process needs to have quantified measures. They can be simple (number of customers served per hour) or complex (net deviation from standard per item); but they need to be there.
3. Once a process is defined clearly with measures in place, then steps should be taken to continuously improve that process. Small incremental changes which accumulate over time can ultimately produce very significant improvements to the final outcomes.
Individuals who believe that there is no better way to do what they are doing should invest time in benchmarking their processes with those of other non-competitive organizations.
By identifying other world-class organizations engaged in a comparable process, and determining how they do what they do, you can bring back what you learned to your own organization. If this benchmarking exercise only serves to reinforce that in fact there is no better way to do it, then that is also of value – it allows you to concentrate on other processes which could be improved.
If on the other hand new ways of doing things are seen which can be applied, the organization has benefitted and has a target for process improvement in that particular area.
When responsible for managing a function, check to ensure that the right person is fully trained and is being properly managed. Also ensure that each of the individuals know what steps they need to follow and are measuring their outcomes. In this way they will be able to determine whether they are on target, and set new targets for process improvement. This combination of focus on people and process will maximize the output of your function.