Process owners frequently wonder to what degree the role should be tactical and to what degree strategic. It’s as if they hear two voices. One says: “Listen to your stakeholders. Solve near-term problems. Demonstrate the value of process thinking.” The other argues: “Take a stand for performance, customer experience, business outcomes … the big picture.”
The other day I was talking with a group of newly appointed process owners who were wrestling with these conflicting messages. I asked them how things were working out. Here are their responses:
- I’ll be entirely focused on meeting several remediation deadlines, following significant findings resulting from a recent corporate audit.
- We’re revisiting legal guidelines and functional responsibilities in some markets. I’ll be driving numerous changes in our measures, documentation, and training.
- We have multiple teams implementing process improvements and they’re running into all kinds of pushback. Firefighting will take most of my time.
- I’m introducing shared goals in 2013. I have 30 days to get executive buy-in, 30 days for system changes, and 30 more to set the stage with function managers. It’s tight, but it’s important. I intend to power through–whatever it takes.
- As process owner, I’m chief motivator and salesperson for a multi-year customer experience re-design project. My job is to get it online by November 1.
These comments suggest an unfortunate 60/40 split in process owner time and attention. The first three indicate a tactical orientation, resulting in a focus on near-term priorities including remediation, documentation, training, and firefighting. The last two suggest a more strategic view, as reflected in the phrases ‘chief motivator’ and ‘shared goals’.
It’s those two that inspired me. They both reflect an awareness of the big picture – more aggressive goals, longer timeframes, and a clear line of sight to business outcomes. At the same time, they both imply thoughtful planning–indicating short-term actions in the context of a longer-term journey.
Taking a stand for the big picture, although part of the role description of many process owners, is easier said than done in today’s heads-down business environment. But that’s what most process owners aspire to, and that’s where their organizations need them most.
Walter Popper, Hammer and Company Senior Faculty Member
Instructor, The Process Owner in Action: Measures for Success
Boston, November 8-9