The Process Advisor's Role

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In most organizations no one oversees the performance and improvement of cross-departmental processes. Management books often assign the title “process owner” to this role. However, “owner” implies authority, which is usually missing in organizations that include this position. “Process advisor” or “process consultant” are more accurate, in that they reflect this reality. Usually, authority pertains to resources, staffing, and prioritizing projects.

The process advisor or consultant’s role is to monitor the performance of a process and continually improve it.

In most organizations no one oversees the performance and improvement of cross-departmental processes. Management books often assign the title “process owner” to this role. However, “owner” implies authority, which is usually missing in organizations that include this position. “Process advisor” or “process consultant” are more accurate, in that they reflect this reality. Usually, authority pertains to resources, staffing, and prioritizing projects.

The process advisor or consultant’s role is to monitor the performance of a process and continually improve it. This is accomplished by using measurements and feedback. Typical measurements include quality, timeliness, customer satisfaction, and cost. The process advisor should keep a process dashboard of key indicators and regularly share them with everyone who works in the process. This dashboard could also be prominently displayed for all to see.

In addition, people who work in the process - e.g., supervisors, management, and department heads - must have their performance, bonus, and evaluations tied to this dashboard. In this way, goals and measurements can be aligned.

As part of the culture of continuous improvement, problems in a process should come to light through metrics, worker comments, or customer issues. When they do, the process advisor’s job is to assemble key team members to launch a process improvement effort. Generally, this would involve data analysis, root cause analysis, creating an improvement plan, implementing it, and finally monitoring the improvement.

The process advisor should “walk the process” regularly to chat with workers, observe individual tasks, and check conformance to procedures. If there are multiple problems in the process, this walk-through should happen often. When the metrics indicate process stability, the walk-through can be less frequent.The policy statement, “No changes can be made in the process without the prior review and approval of the process advisor,” can help provide change control. Without such a policy, department heads, managers, or supervisors could make changes in the process without fully understanding the effect on other departments.

Characteristics of a Successful Process Advisor

 

  • Knows the process extremely well
  • Doesn’t have a vested interest in any one part of the process
  • Is effective in influencing management
  • Is well respected by department heads
  • Knows the tools of process improvement (e.g., lean, Six Sigma, design principles)
  • Is an effective facilitator and team leader
  • Can perform or facilitate simulation, role playing, and practice of new process designs or changes

 

Working With Department Heads

Most organizations are functionally designed. Department heads control resources, people, priorities, and decisions within their respective areas. Thus, a process manager really has no control except what he or she can exert through influence.

A process owner can work with department heads by:

 

  • Understanding the department head’s priorities
  • Give feedback about process performance metrics
  • Bringing department heads together to discuss issues, priorities, resources
  • Helping the department head when possible
  • Communicating regularly with the department head

 

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