No matter how efficiently your business carries out its processes, there’s always room for process improvement. Efficient processes can make your business more profitable, help you to improve quality and customer experience, and ultimately, enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty. To successfully improve your processes, you need to appoint process owners.
To understand the key role that process owners play in process improvement, let’s take a closer look at who they are, what they do, and how you should work with them. Finally, we’ll sum up the reasons why your process owners are the key to successful process improvement.
Process Owners and Processes
A process is a set of activities that turns inputs into outputs. Those inputs come from another process and are passed on to the next process until a final product is achieved.
The beauty of processes is that they are repeatable. You don’t have to reinvent the way you work every time you have something to do. In fact, variation is the one thing you want to avoid. Variation makes your results unpredictable. As a result, your business runs carefully plan processes and tries to ensure that they’ll always be carried out in the same way.
As a business owner, however, you have more important things to do than micro-manage your employees & make sure they’re efficient with their processes.
What you can do, however, is appoint process owners.
They ensure that processes are carried out as planned and that the results are passed on to the next process smoothly. When you decide to improve a process, the process owner becomes all the more important.
A process owner can’t have tunnel vision. He or she has to see the “big picture” and how their process fits into it. Being able to design, implement, and improve processes is part of the task. Knowing how the process interacts with other processes, and improving on that when possible, goes with the territory too. Finally, process owners choose measurements or Key Performance Indicators that will show whether process improvement plans are working out as they should.
All the elements of management: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling are therefore part of a process owner’s work. At the same time, the process owner may not be the person in charge of every staff member who engages in a process. However, most of the activities should fall under the process owner’s control, and he or she should be able to influence any parts of the process that are not.
What Process Owners Do
“Plan, organize, lead, and control,” is a simple way of summing up a complex concept. So, what type of tasks do these four words embrace?
A process owner must be able to:
- Formally define an entire process.
- Explain how the process links and interacts with other processes.
- Choose an appropriate system for documentation.
- Know what is required to train staff so that they execute their part of the process well.
- Communicate any instructions on procedures to be followed.
- Ensure that the desired level of quality is achieved by those following the process.
- Provide staff with the resources and information they need.
- Keep processes running efficiently, improving them whenever possible.
- Solve problems and prevent them from recurring.
- Implement any changes to the process effectively.
- Work with the internal suppliers of the process about what’s needed from inputs.
- Meet the needs and requirements of the process receiving outputs.
- Use performance information to set process improvement goals.
- Follow up to see whether performance goals are being reached.
- Identify and mitigate process-related risks and explore process-related opportunities.
- Develop and suggest process improvements.
Process owners, therefore, develop and run processes, but they also constantly look for ways to improve them, and since you’re embarking on process improvement, you can see where process owners enter the picture.
How Process Owners Improve Processes
When a need for process improvement is picked up, the process owner plans carefully first. They answer the following questions in the process:
- What are we trying to achieve?
- How can we perform tasks so that we achieve it?
- When will we do it?
- What data do I need to track progress, and how will I assess it?
- What’s the final plan?
- How will I communicate it?
Now that your process owner has worked on a plan, presented it to you, and has received approval, it’s time to put the plan into action. By now, everyone affected by the process will know what they’re meant to do and what they’re trying to achieve. But plans aren’t yet practice. The process owner needs to move to the next step
Is the plan working in action? It’s time to check the results. During planning, the project owner decides on what information he or she needs to analyze to gauge success. Now the measurements are used to see whether the results match expectations.
Can the process improve next time around? The process owner decides what actions to take to make sure that it does and starts the cycle again, beginning with planning.
Who Should You Appoint as a Process Owner?
The whole point of having process owners is that you have one person who is in charge of making a process work well for you. A process owner may have a team to help with process improvement, but the responsibility remains with a single individual.
Usually, a process owner will be a manager, but choosing the right person for the task takes a little thought.
Experience with the process in question will help, but the willingness to drive change and make improvements rather than just maintain the status quo is a prerequisite. If process improvement is going to solve a problem a member of your management has raised, you might have the perfect candidate for process ownership.
But just as a process doesn’t exist in isolation, a process owner also has to have the people skills to work with process owners from preceding and subsequent processes. And they may need to work with people who are responsible for parallel processes that impact the one they’re to own.
Needless to say, you need a rational but creative thinker who has a knack for spotting areas in the process that could do with improvement. Finally, your process owners need to keep their fingers on the pulse consistently – even once the process improvements are entrenched and are running smoothly.
How to Work with Process Owners
Once you think you’ve identified a process owner, you want his or her full cooperation. As the term says, you need an “owner.” For process owners to be passionate about business process improvement, they must be involved as early as possible.
Without early involvement, it’s difficult for process owners to feel as if they’re part of a team that’s aiming for exciting results. Instead, they may feel that they’re being dragged along by the initiative rather than actively participating.
As soon as you know that there’s a process-related improvement you’d like to work on, it’s time to appoint the process owner and inform him or her of what you have in mind. If you have trained Six-Sigma Black Belts, one of them will share the responsibility for process improvement with the process owner. Whether you have Six-Sigma Black Belts or not, your process owner is likely to need a team, and once again, he or she should be involved in the selection process.
As your process improvement project progresses, you will have meetings at which feedback must be given and presentations made. Even if you have a Six-Sigma Black Belt on the case, most of the communication should come from the process owner. The Black Belt is there to help with Six-Sigma-related specialist knowledge on process improvement, but the process owner is still in charge.
By giving process owners real ownership and by getting feedback directly from them, you foster their engagement and keep it alive.
Process Ownership – A Quick Recap
So now that you know the “hows” and “whys” of process ownership, let’s do a quick recap…
- A process owner works with a process in which they have specialist expertise and in-depth knowledge that you don’t have. The ideas and advice you get are highly relevant.
- Process owners give you a single point of contact for any part of a process they are in charge of. You need only work directly with one person.
- Process owners take responsibility for process results and work to improve efficiency, quality, and customer satisfaction.
- They don’t stop owning the process after process improvement initiatives wind down – they make sure you’re still getting the improved results.
- Process owners work with the owners of adjacent processes to coordinate and improve workflows.
- They monitor work within their process and come up with new ideas for ongoing improvement.
Of course, just appointing a series of process owners isn’t enough to ensure success. To really get the most out of them, you’ll need to arm them with the right tools.
Business Process Management Software (BPMS) is a must-have weapon in every process owner’s arsenal.
The tool can help capture new process designs or adjustments, test out possible solutions, communicate requirements to process teams, and monitor implementation.
And to put the icing on the cake, Tallyfy’s BPMS is free to try. Give it a go & see how the software can help with process improvement initiatives.