“Processes underpin business capabilities, and capabilities underpin strategy execution,” says digital leadership specialist Pearl Zhu in her book “Digital Capability: Building Lego Like Capability Into Business Competency.”
In today’s fast-paced world, innovation and growth are key to business success for startups and maturing companies alike. Technological advancements, the need to do more with less and ever-changing customer expectations are all having a significant impact on operations.
Because of this, organizations need the ability to quickly adjust their strategies and develop new ones in order to streamline operations and take advantage of new opportunities.
In this endeavor, process improvement can play an integral role.
Process Improvement Underpins Successful Execution
Processes are fundamental to an organization’s culture. They define how things are done and why they’re done that way. And because organizations are constantly changing as they respond to internal and external pressures, continual process improvement can enable team engagement and lead to growth.
Growth will not occur without effective strategy execution. However, effective strategy execution is one of the biggest challenges facing CEOs today. Why?
Because, as management consultant Peter Bregman argues in a Harvard Business Review article titled “Execution Is a People Problem, Not a Strategy Problem,” successful execution depends on teams that are aligned to a goal while working with a laser-like focus to achieve that goal. To get everyone to that point, you must communicate the strategy effectively and develop the capabilities needed to execute it.
And as Zhu points out, those capabilities are underpinned by effective processes that everyone buys into.
Related Article: Take an Agile Approach to Process Improvement
Make Process Improvement Part of Everyday Conversation
Traditionally, organizations have relied on external consultants to analyze their processes and decide how they can be improved in order to better execute their business strategies. Once those process improvements have been developed, they’re then communicated to the people who have to implement them.
It’s at this point that process improvement frequently goes awry because employees tend to be resistant to change. The problem is that the people expected to carry out the processes had nothing to do with developing those processes and they aren’t invested in implementing them. Therefore, the new procedures are often shelved and ignored before they see the light of day.
For this reason, a growing number of companies are changing the way they capture, share and review their business processes. They make processes part of their organizations’ day-to-day conversations at every level, and thereby hope to foster an environment of continual improvement — one where processes and their outcomes can be tracked and regularly reviewed and updated.
How to Secure Quick Wins for Your Improvement Efforts
Effective business growth hinges on a solid strategy. Develop your organization’s capabilities to execute your strategy and create an “improvement culture” that drives the capturing and refining of business processes.
Processes that work for a startup with a single innovative product and a handful of employees won’t sustain an expanding company with multiple product lines and 100 people or so — much less a large enterprise that’s expanding overseas and managing a workforce spread across multiple continents.
Process improvement is an ongoing endeavor that needs to grow and change along with your organization and its people.
Here are four tips for encouraging employees to play a role in maximizing the impact of your process improvement efforts.
- Involve leadership - An organization’s top executives should visibly support process improvement. They should emphasize the role process plays in building an improvement culture and in enabling leadership’s vision for the organization. Senior managers should also establish governance to ensure that people throughout the organization adhere to processes.
- Extend process ownership across teams - As the organization expands, end-to-end processes will span multiple teams. Appoint process owners and process champions who will be responsible for defining processes and process goals, and for monitoring progress, removing obstacles and holding people and teams accountable.
- Establish a central source for process documentation - This platform should be accessible by everyone in the organization, easy to understand and centrally updated. Set the expectation that teams will refer to this repository as the single source of the truth.
- Encourage a culture that challenges the status quo - Empower your people to ask questions and suggest improvements instead of settling for doing things the way they have always been done. This will help maintain an open environment that’s conducive to innovation, improvement and growth.
Let Processes Underpin Your Innovation and Growth
Create a culture in your organization where business teams can actively participate in improvement discussions and contribute to new solutions for everything from operational issues to product design.
If everyone in an organization embraces it, process improvement will no longer be an afterthought and will instead evolve into a vital strategy that feeds the needs of your business. Organizations that view process improvement as an enabler of innovation and growth — and not as a constraint or an administrative burden — will quickly see how processes can underpin business capabilities, and how capabilities can underpin strategy execution.