The Leadership Engine for the Journey to Operational Excellence

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Faculty Member, and Principal Consultant, Marvin M. Wurtzel & Associates, Inc.
Marvin Wurtzel is a Faculty Member of, Certified Business Process Management Professional and the Principal Consultant of Marvin M. Wurtzel & Associates, Inc., a consulting and training firm that specializes in quality, process and productivity improvement. Marvin has extensive management experience at leading companies in financial services, information technology, electronic manufacturing, telecom, health care, pharmaceuticals and consumer products. He has implemented Six Sigma and Process Management strategies resulting in, cost reduction, as well as, customer satisfaction, productivity, quality and cycle time improvements. He is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a three time Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) Examiner and a Master Black Belt.

In order to initiate Operational Excellence we focus on establishing the structures, tools, methodologies and systems required. The manage program phase sustains that work by providing ongoing oversight and leadership for this initiative. In this phase the executive leadership attends to the following ongoing responsibilities:

• Sets and deploys enterprise goals and strategies via core business processes.
• Manages program-level plans and accountabilities.
• Monitors priority process performance and related interventions.
• Maintains alignment between enterprise structures, systems, and core business processes.
•Leverages best practices across the enterprise.

The ultimate objective is that these responsibilities gradually become integrated into the fabric of enterprise management practices. That is, they become “the way we do things around here.” We will discuss these responsibilities in greater detail in the following.

Performance goals and enabling strategies are integral to effective performance management. It is essential that senior management periodically reviews, revises, and restates enterprise performance goals and strategies as appropriate to reflect changing business conditions or priorities. Typically, this work is performed as part of the annual business planning cycle. In a process-managed enterprise, it is also essential that business process goals be kept in alignment with enterprise goals and strategies. Therefore, as senior managers revise enterprise-level goals or strategies, those goals and strategies must be translated to the core business processes. The leadership team should communicate the new or revised process goals to the process owners. Process owners are responsible for adjusting the process-level performance management systems as required to reflect new or revised process goals.

In the application of BPM we established process owners and process management teams to conduct the activities for process management and process improvement activities. The leadership team should maintain a system of status reporting and management reviews to assure that priority process work is progressing properly. They must be vigilant in ensuring that deployment-related obstacles and performance issues are identified and resolved as quickly as possible. Since it is highly likely that problems will occur, failure to proactively identify and resolve them will simply allow the change initiative to deflate and lose momentum.

In BPM we institute process performance measurements required to manage process performance relative to the goals set for the enterprise. We also establish the measurements required to monitor process results and trends, and to drive corrective action interventions as required to realign performance. Process-level goals and performance metrics were also integrated into the enterprise performance dashboard to provide senior management with regular feedback regarding process performance and trends. These elements combine to provide an integrated system of process management that provides enterprise managers with the levers required to ensure nominal process performance as well as to direct improvement in performance capabilities. To ensure the continued viability of the performance management, the leadership team should monitor process-level goal deployment, measurement systems, and improvement interventions. This can be accomplished by requiring regular updates from process owners and by performing periodic management reviews of process-level practices.

In BPM the enterprise performance dashboard is a key navigational system for enterprise management and an enabler for the journey to Operational Excellence. The dashboard is where we need to establish explicit linkages between business outcomes and business process performance. The dashboard gives enterprise managers new levers to pull when seeking to impact performance. Without these linkages, managers have no choice but to continue pulling the same levers as before. These responsibilities may include oversight of data collection, storage, and analysis and reporting. The leadership team must oversee this function to ensure that technical and operational aspects are handled satisfactorily. The leadership team must take ownership for ensuring that enterprise goals are appropriately translated to the business processes as goals are added or revised.

Best practices come into play in two ways. First, as process owners develop improved processing methods, there may be opportunities to leverage those methods in other business processes. These opportunities will not be readily visible from within the individual process areas. This puts the leadership team in the best position to determine the ability to leverage best practices to other areas of the organization.

Continuous communication is a vital component of leadership. Communication is even more important when the organization is undertaking a significant change effort, like the journey to process focus. To this end, the process council should regularly reinforce the process vision and provide regular updates regarding program plans and results. This is also the time to acknowledge the efforts and accomplishments of program participants.

Until now, we have primarily used process goals as a means for enabling process management (ensuring that our processes operate within acceptable ranges of behavior). Now, as we begin to consider improving process performance levels, we should consider ways to use process goals to guide and inspire action toward continuous improvement. Of course, using goals is not as simple as simply passing predefined goals to employees and expecting action. Earlier, we talked about how the effectiveness of goals as motivators is related to the degree of personal relevance associated with them. This means that we need to develop ways to effectively invest employees in process goals. Although organizations frequently seek to invest employees by tying financial incentive to goals, my experience has shown this to be only a moderately effective approach. A more effective approach may be to involve employees in goal setting and goal management processes. In other words, raising the bar should become another behavioral component of the process vision.

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