Business Process Monitoring and Continuous Improvement
By: Jonny Baker, Senior Manager, Strategic Management Consulting Services
The following is part four of a four-part series on business processes, including the need for clarity, proper design, appropriate communication, and commensurate monitoring.
Business process monitoring is often the key area of failure for organizational processes. People love to create, some people even love to communicate, but very few people love to monitor processes, and even fewer love to monitor employees. Why should we monitor business processes and our employees, especially when it comes with little to no reward and takes significant amounts of time? If you think you do not have time now, you’ll lose even more time if you don’t monitor your process and employees. When monitoring is performed correctly, it will be much less about chasing your employees down and more about sharing in rewards with employees.
Our previous installment, part three of this series, reviewed the importance of communication to the new business process design and rollout phases. For the process change to be successful, appropriate monitoring of the actual process and those employees affected by the process must be planned, implemented, and maintained. Business owners are very good at identifying top talent from a skills perspective, but successful talent leaders also understand all three necessary process components; design, communication, and monitoring. These leaders must work to ensure all new processes are implemented appropriately without a heavy hand from upper management. This will be a hard task for those leaders, but it will be meaningful and will make a big difference in your organization and overall business functions.
CREATING A HEALTHY MONITORING ENVIRONMENT
Feeling the pressure yet? The monitoring process must be shifted from the notion of a high school principal chasing wayward students to an iterative and informative process where both management and employees can be open and honest without fearing negative ramifications. To do this, leadership must work diligently to create an environment where people are free to communicate authentically. They must be quick to reward those employees that vocalize legitimate concerns and beneficial ideas. This aspect of open communication is especially critical in the early phases of rolling out a new process change. Only by emitting encouragement, rather than admonition, will a leader be able to setup a monitoring process that will be successful long term.
IDENTIFYING THE PROCESS OWNER
The business process, no matter how perfect and well thought out, will not sprout wings and monitor itself. The process owner is the one responsible for ensuring that teams, systems, and performance follows in line with the process. Additionally, top management must identify the ultimate process owner as the individual with the authority and responsibility to enable him/her to successfully implement or monitor the process change. Similarly, if two people “own” the process, then no one really owns the it. Neither co-process owner will be setup for success, nor will the company. If your business process is too broad for just one employee to own, it may be worth revisiting in order to split it into areas where ownership is clearly defined over the separate aspects. This will allow the employees and teams affected by the process to have a clear and singular point of contact when faced with questions or concerns.
PROVIDING CLARITY AND DIRECTION
As company leaders, it is our responsibility to provide clarity and direction to our employees. A great first step towards providing this is to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that allow management, teams, and employees to know what items will be measured. From there, dashboards and scorecards can be produced and used to identify how the process is performing against those measures. In the early phases of the new process, we often recommend that company management and leadership establish the processes for measurement, as this will lead to clarity across your company and teams. By simply defining these KPIs and agreeing upon them with the employees affected, you have created clarity and a tunnel of focus. In later iterations, we recommend adding incentives that allow your employees to benefit as the company succeeds due to the new processes implemented. This will allow the tunnel of focus to align with the rewards to follow, i.e. the carrot from our previous article part three.
THE RABBIT PRINCIPLE
One of the most important components of process management involves having big ears and a small mouth, or the rabbit principle. The rabbit principle states that management can do more by listening, asking, and coaching, rather than by stating, telling, or doing. As teams and your employees find new and more efficient ways to improve processes, management would be mistaken to not listen. If the organization can meet or exceed the initial control objectives through a reiteration to the process, leadership and employees should be open to this. As an employee, it is hard to think of a more frustrating situation than one where you are expected to bridge gaps and follow processes without a platform to voice thoughts or concerns. Good management and leadership will never put their employees in such a position where they have no voice.
REVISITING TO SAVE YOURSELF TIME
Even better, those charged with governance should monitor those monitoring. As part of this monitoring, processes and leaders monitoring those processes must be slated for review periodically. It is hard to definitively say how often processes should be reviewed. Frequency should be dependent upon how mission critical the process is to the success of your organization and, thus, should be slated for review accordingly. A rule of thumb in the business world is that no established process should be evaluated more often than every six months and no longer than every three years. If management reviews the process too often, the team won’t be able to find its rhythm. Conversely, if the review is to seldom, the business process may run rampant. If your company’s processes are outside of these loosely defined bounds, then they likely are not continual processes and will require being adjusted accordingly on your monitoring list(s). Often, we hear, “we just do not have time to monitor these processes,” but we have seen that organization executives really don’t have time not to monitor critical processes. Therefore, it is important to have process owners who manage the day-to-day aspects of the process.
KHA Management Consultants offers organizational optimization services that can help set the stage for cohesive teamwork and effective communication across your teams, both vertically and horizontally across the organization chart. We help pinpoint those key performance indicators for your entity and help develop the actions needed to review those processes to insure your company remains successful.
Thank you for reading part four of this series. We look forward to a new series on Strategic Planning next.
KHA Management Consultants, the consulting wing of KHA Accountants, PLLC, based in Flower Mound, Texas, is always looking for key clients ready to take their business to the next level. If you have a desire to improve, take the first step toward success with the process experts, contact us at 972-221-2500.