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Financial services, Lean IT, Service Management

Three essential ingredients to cook a delicious process culture

cook_processWe keep hearing the terms “process culture”, “maturity” while discussing any improvement framework discussions – let it be Lean, Six Sigma, ITIL, CMMI, Agile, BPM etc. I had the privilege to work/consult many organisations with varying “maturity” levels. In my observation, very few organisations have managed embed the process culture in their DNA. There are three “best practices” I want to share with you to embed the process culture.

Here is my simple definition of “process culture”:

“Stories you hear from employees in an organisation about their customer experience”

It is as simple as that! You chat with employees across the customer fulfilment value chain. Ask them about to share stories about their external/internal customer. With those stories you will be able to get an idea about the “process maturity”.

If the “process maturity” is low, please add the following ingredients, simmer the flame and slowly mix the organisational pot! Your dish will be a sure hit! Bon Appetite!

These are the magical ingredients:

  • Embed “process thinking” during employee induction
  • Ensure everyone understands “People/Process/Technology” triangle
  • Focus on team based rewards


Embed “process thinking” during employee induction

If we are really serious about process culture, the first place to focus is the employee induction. Here is my own experience with two organisations:

The first organisation lived and breathed CMMI framework. On my first day in this organisation, the Managing Director addressed the group of new recruits and clearly articulated why it is important to align with a common process. He also addressed the concerns that process alignment does not mean lack of innovation. Then we had intensive face-to-face workshops facilitated by real practitioners. The practitioners were knowledgeable about their area of expertise and passionate. We spent around 2-3 weeks assimilating the concepts, challenging the process steps, reflecting the merits. At the end of the induction, we had a pretty clear picture on what is expected from us to be working in a “high maturity” organisation.

One of the reasons the second case organisation hired me was my expertise in CMMI. On the first day I met my supervisor, who was a very warm and friendly. He generally talked about various things, the client profile, the challenges in the client environment etc. After some time I asked “what is your take on CMMI?” He smiled and said “oh, do not bother! It is some documentation standard. We need not worry about it”. His assuring tone implied that he was protecting me from the evil CMMI!

The second organisation had some aspirations moving up in the CMMI maturity level. Needless to say, it never happened.

I am sure you could relate the above examples to any process framework – not just CMMI.

Take away:

  • Convey the message to your employees on the first day, in clear terms how any process framework you are implementing in important.
  • The message should be coming from a senior leader/director who should be able to articulate how the process strategy is part of business strategy in a simple language
  • Let the peers take it from there and “deep dive”. Their message should be consistent.
  • At any point, it is important to encourage discussions and diverse viewpoints. You want the processes to continually improve.

Everyone understands how “people-process-technology” translates to performance

For an efficient organisational performance, we need people, process and technology working together. All the parameters equally important.

In high maturity organisations, people exhibit “can do attitude”. Everything else is built on this positive attitude. In addition to attitude, they also need to understand the importance of following the process and use of technology.

Let us take a typical meeting that is intended to review the business process performance/score card. In the “process centric” organisations, the participants are trained not to blame people. Their response to a performance glitch would be to investigate the process.

In a “non-process centric” organisation, the first response is to blame people for not doing their job. For example, if there are too many errors in a document, the “non-process centric” organisation culture will blame the author. In the “process centric” organisation, the leaders will question the effectiveness of the review process.

Please note that the non-blame attitude can be cultivated by training. We need to articulate the message of “process centricity” across all levels of organisation.

Take away:

  • Train people to look for “process inefficiencies” instead of blaming individuals
  • Where possible, assign group tasks instead of individual ones. For example you could implement peer-review process for all critical documentation. You will be pleasantly surprised to see the improvement in quality.
  • Make every stakeholder understand the importance of people, process and technology. We could see IT staff blinded by technology solutions and quality staff focussed on process steps, totally ignoring the people and technology aspects.
  • Another way of ensuring the balanced approach to people/process/technology is job rotation. Where possible, expose staff to multiple areas to broaden their vision and appreciate the need for coordinated approach to process improvement.

Focus on team based rewards

There is a clear difference in the reward and recognition approach between the “process centric” and “non-process centric” organisation.

The “non-process centric” organisation relies on individual heroes/heroines to outperform others to complete the job. They complete with others and run the race. There will be a perception of “winners” and “losers”. The rest of the employees watch the 1% winners awarded. The organisation should realise that if 99% of their workforce is underperforming, there is something wrong.

Instead the “process centric” organisation focuses on team rewards. The focus shifts from “individual contribution” to team outcomes. There could be one or two non-performers in the team. However, it is up to the team to lift the performance of those members. The team will learn to collaborate, adjust to different personalities, if they all members work towards a common goal.

Take away:

  • Review your reward and recognition program. Ensure that you have more team based awards than individual awards.
  • Where applicable, invite customers to provide feedback about the team deliverables
  • Ensure that entire team is rewarded after completion of a significant achievement

Let me know how your cooking goes! If you have other ingredients, please feel free to comment and share!



About Murali Ramakrishnan

Murali is the Managing Director of the boutique consulting firm "Process-Symphony". Process-Symphony specializes in IT enabled business process orchestration. http://www.process-symphony.com.au http://www.kloudax.net.au


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