10 Success factors to become an effective Process Organization
By combining leadership good practices with process management, we have successfully implemented a major change in our business. We innovated hard, enriched our experience, developed our expertise and gave birth to a process organization and a culture of the process. Our team spirit is strengthened, we are more efficient and we are now co-developing new solutions in synergy with our customers.
Authors: Fred Keßler, M.BC.; Gilles Fiorio
If you think, you could benefit from digitalization (digital transformation), make sure that you become effective before you try to digitize your practices. It is very tough to walk your talk sometimes, but we would have never thought that these efforts could be so much rewarding. Sharing the experiences of our own transformation should encourage you to start your own journey – maybe with us as your guide.
As an already successful IT-Consulting and -Service Company we thought we thought we already had clear and defined processes to accomplish our activies. To be honest, we were not where we saw ourselves and we learned how to get there.
With the eyes of an experienced external consultant from InnovationLeaders, we started by laying the basis by creating foundations based on leadership. It really helped us to become effective, to engage and to share one version of our truth
Next, we initiated the design and the adoption of a process framework in and for our business. If the work of the innovation and transformation processes was extraordinarily exciting, the process of developing the Strategy was decisive for the company.
Finally, we have automated these processes with Firestart software, to obtain quality data (dates, results, …), ensure the consistency of the implementation of the process within the company, obtain transparency on our activities to pilot better and with more efficiency.
Today, we are bringing these processes to life to make them ever more efficient and we now advise and support other companies in their digital transformation to impre their competitiveness.
Opening up Pandoras Box for you, you will see that ultimately there was no witchcraft but there were strong, sometimes hard efforts in learning, failing forward, adapting and adopting. Essentially, we approached our transformation sequentially as follows:
- Leadership – Have an intention, be proactive and prioritize to move forward. We must contribute to greater efficiency as a responsible professional instead of simply consuming the resources available. We now practice it as a team sport.
- Orientation – A purposeful long-term aspiration that gives everyone of us the ultimate guidance to make wise choices in the moments of our decisions. We chose to focus on the co-creation of customer value, a measurable contribution to our customers competitiveness in the form of cash-flow or compliance.
- Objectives – Some purposeful short- and medium-term goals that everybody understands and commits to achieve. Cascading clearly defined leading objectives without being distorted by negotiations on figures and avoidance of failing is complex and cannot been achieved without setting responsibility as a pillar (see step 1).
- Strategies – Some clearly defined, transparent and easy to understand ways to achieve the greater purpose for the company. The actions are guided by objectives to be achieved organized in cascade down to the individual level while ensuring their interdependence to empower everyone to contribute to the common objective.
- Processes – Defined sequences of activities, in a timed and logical order to achieve the desired results. It is simply amazing to see our people succeed in workflows they embrace because they understand them – because they were part of the development.
- Structures – Structure follows process! We needed to move away from the classical hierarchy, boundaries and silos for a process organization.
- IT – finally this was literally the last and easiest part of the whole transformation, because Firestart is designed for an end-user appropriation.
- Culture – A mindset and climate that embraces change, performance, diversity and inclusion, is what we got in return and it has become the new “glue” of our company.
Our main driver was to best prepare the company for its growth. We also wanted to control our risks by creating our own good practices enriched by the lessons of our failures. Finally, we wanted to write our own recipe for a successful transformation, so that we could reproduce it with our customers.
Below, we describe our top 10 success factors, enriched by our learning, the means used and our recommendations in a logical order to help you methodically and effectively lead your own transformation.
1st Success Factor – Initiation
Learnings: All good starts with people who have the mindset and wisdom to contribute to the companies´ success, no matter from which hierarchy level they might come. Nevertheless, it is crucial to create a sense of urgency with the people who have the power and the money to make real change happen.
Our Way: The impulse came from our sales manager, who wanted to streamline the sales- and marketing processes. He did a diligent research and approached the CEO with his ideas. The CEO reflected with the team of managers and together we decided that it is time for a major change.
Recommendations: No matter from where the impulse comes, take it seriously into account and evaluate the potential impact of it. You might benefit from it a lot.
2nd Success Factor – Leadership
Learning: A new leadership mindset and skillset is necessary to drive all change, especially if it is fundamental.
Our Way: As a whole organization, we learned and practice the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen R. Covey´s heritage to leaders all over the planet. It helped us to adjust our paradigms and gave us a set of principles to achieve real effectiveness. Having this common ground to start from, it was much easier to act. A very high level of trust led to a seamless understanding and communication within the team.
Recommendations: Assess the status of your culture and leadership skills and create a common ground for further actions. This may take time but it is the platform of your journey.
3rd Success Factor – Orientation
Learning: Objectives only make sense if they are derived from a greater perspective, vision or orientation. If they are only driven by short term financial obligations people simply don´t buy-in.
Our Way: We defined our orientation is creating measurably customer value – a measurable contribution to the performance of our customers (competitiveness, Cash flow or compliance). This much bigger picture gave everybody a good purpose for driving the change. We moved from consumption to contribution.
Recommendations: Step back and get in touch with the ultimate function of your company and you will clearly see that it is to produce happy customers. Customers are very happy these days, if you contribute to their competitiveness. As simple as it is, it is subject to oblivion so often.
4th Success Factor – Objectives
Learning: If you empower people to make decisions, make sure to provide them with a framework of reference to derive and justify their decisions. They need objectives and the freedom to derive their own strategies. Else they are simply not able to make good decisions and not guilty of making bad decisions.
Our Way: We defined what it means for us to measurably contribute to our customers performance and we identified, it is about competitiveness, cash flow and compliance. Then we cascaded the big objective from the company level to the process owner level, making things measurable and controllable. The team was deeply involved into setting these goals and deriving their own objectives which finally made them their own objectives – buy-in was easy.
Recommendations: Step back and define how you can contribute to your customers competitiveness. Could you help them leverage their cash flows or rather their compliance or both? How could you measure your impact on these levers? Derive your objectives for the company from there and you will be able more easily to cascade these things down to everyone in the organization.
5th Success Factor – Strategies
Learning: There are two important perspectives to look at strategy: The company strategy and the individual strategies on the manager levels. While the company strategy clearly and indisputably defines the frame of reference, there may be diverse strategies to discuss with managers to achieve their objectives on their individual level.
Our Way: We decided to opt for growth through differentiation, knowing that this is for sure the most motivating and challenging the way for us to go. Anyway, it was a mutual decision with the team and everybody was really excited to walk the extra mile.
Recommendations: Step back and get in touch of your companies DNA. Would you rather like to grow or shrink. If you need to grow or shrink, would you rather like to achieve it through
- price (being the cheapest)
- niche (focussing on tiny markets)
- differentiation (standing out and shine)?
Make a wise choice because this will be setting the tone for all further decisions and actions
6th Success Factor – Processes
Learning: To design and manage a process it also requires a different skillset and tools. From the start nobody is ready for such new challenges. People need to learn process management before they start with their new job assignment.
Our way: We invested in the education of our team and it was amazing how powerful we could drive the process design. Then we created our our own processes with the external view of an experienced international consultant from InnovationLeaders from the desired results back to the beginning and the necessary input and were very happy with the new clarity. It was a great experience to do this with the team and the overarching logic of process management helped us to achieve effectiveness and efficiency in very short time. The previously learned leadership skills were a perfect foundation for our communication.
Recommendations: Business Process Management (BPM) is no witchcraft at all. Nevertheless you need to be precise and correct from the beginning to avoid later confusion or sunk investments. Invest in Education of everybody who is involved in execution. Beyond that, have everybody certified in BPM who is foreseen to design and manage processes.
Don´t try to model (paint) the processes that you have because you will run into the justification trap. Everybody will justify the current status. Instead, design your processes from the desired end results to the necessary input / beginning.
7th Success Factor – Structure
Learning: If you want your processes to be successful, assign responsibility for the process results to process managers. In order to get there, you will need to say goodbye to your old hierarchy and the heavy silos that have evolved over decades.
Our Way: We have moved to a process organization with managers for the processes. From a CEO prospective this was simply a logical path, but it was amazing to see people unleashing their potentials once they were empowered. This did not mean at all that everything ran smoothly and without control. It meant that controlling results was and is much easier because discussions are led on the subject instead of leading them based on emotions. Solutions easily derive from synergy!
Recommendations: Step back and realize, that the hierarchy that has grown over years may not be the foundation for your future. Start with a simple BPM Process map and assign responsibilities for processes to people who are most likely to get it done. Once they accepted their new role, you need to support and control them! Control is must not be confused with micro-management. It is about wisely guiding them, checking status and delta in results achievements in a respectful, focussed and situational manner.
8th Success Factor – Transformation
Learning: Just because you have designed some nice processes doesn´t automatically mean that they run perfectly from the beginning. You have to implement them with a transformation process allowing experimentation and continuous improvement.
Our Way: We invested in the education of our team again and we empowered them to conduct transformation successfully, leading their teams and making good decisions. We implemented the processes sequentially with a great transformation methodology, based on John P. Kotter. The managers instantly took the opportunity to practice what they had learned. Here again, our foundations based on leadership developed from the outset of the project helped everyone to undertake without fear of the penalty of failure..
Recommendations: Step back and reflect who is currently capable to lead change. You will see that nobody is. If you accept this, it is highly necessary and effective to invest in the capacity / readiness of the team to successfully conduct fundamental changes (transformation).
9th Success Factor – BPM-Software
Learning: Don´t look at a process automation tool as the magic remedy to your lack of processes. Nevertheless, having one in place from the start helps to capture, structure and check your design work. Also do not look for nice “paint boxes”, tools that help you to nicely layout & print your processes but without letting you take advantage of the benefits of automation and integration with your management software where the action takes place.
Our Way: We had no idea what to look for, so we asked a trusted advisor for a recommendation. He came up with three options, organized presentations with the suppliers and gave us a lot of insights that helped us to make a good decision. We selected relevant process automation software with Firestart Business Process Management Suite. It’s a solution that we really like to work with. It is accepted by the process managers and people who are working in the processes don´t even realized the tool because it works in the background.
Recommendations: Either conduct a market research on BPM-Suites to find the one that matches your requirements – that you do not know at the beginning – or simply follow our role model to use the proven technology of firestart.
10th Success Factor – Culture of Life Long Learning
Learning: Don´t think you will get done with your transformation once and for all. You will finish one transformation successfully by arriving at a newly implemented Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) but this will give birth to the next transformation and so forth.
Our Way: We already ran through a series of transformation project with the team, recognizing that there is an underlying mechanics to conduct such transformation. While we get better and better applying the transformation methodology, the only thing that changes is the topic of the transformation. So, we carry on learning with great curiosity, fun and increasing robustness.
Recommendations: Consider it a chance to transform and accept that you do not know everything from the start. Evolve from a “know it all” to a “learn it all” culture and organization.
Using BPM together with Firestart has brought us in the position to really automate and control the processes that we have designed.
Let’s zoom in what happened with our process for recruiting. Formerly:
The processing time for an application was long between its reception and the proposal of a contract which made us lose talents who signed for a compelling offer which they got more quickly.
We have sometimes failed to offer successful collaboration to candidates in order to regret not having carried out these verifications or theses others. It is damaging on a human level but also financially for both parties.
Our interactions with candidates sometimes depended on the profile, the availability of colleagues involved in recruitment or even the emotional bond that can be created with a person.
Finally, no homogeneity, no standards, an emotional sphere dominating facts and rationality and ultimately, we put up with the sequence of activities.
We decided to design an effective (new) process. It was so much amazing and rewarding to put the pieces together and see what happened. Essentially, we did it this way.
- The HR manager with CEO drew the objectives as creating a nice and positive impact on candidate, putting them first, accelerating the time from application to signature, etc.
- The HR manager was strongly involved in the process design as she was considered as the business owner. This was key to ensure setting the right balance between automation (machines can technically cover all) and human activities that still create the emotional difference.
- We leverage Firestart BPM tool to challenge our designed process as machine demand answers for all cased.
- We ran our solution and monitored the results
- We optimized everything until we were sure that the process delivers what we expect
- We anchored the process in the culture because we were successful with it.
Now we are extending our process in Firestart by starting from the confirmation of a need of talent covering the job description activity and its publication.
Moreover, we bring this workflow to our customers to help them leveraging their success.
You are invited to contact us if you wish to obtain in-depth information on our experiences and lessons that motivate us on a daily basis.
We at Synchrotech desire to nurture every true leader´s striving for excellence. We are convinced that critical reflections combined with aggregation of knowledge and adaption of methodological approaches are much better foundations for developing and executing strategies than a bad copy of what others are doing.
In 2019 we have already delivering a series of articles and events on current CXO-topics, all designed to create an innovation hub with and for our customers, partners and employees, where we are building processes, bridging the gap between business and IT.