The Process Bulldog

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Author(s)

CEO, Promapp
Ivan Seselj is founder and CEO of Promapp, a global provider of business process management software and a Deloitte Asia Pacific Tech Fast 500 company. Leveraging his finance and internal audit background, and 10+ years’ experience in business process improvement roles across a diverse range of organizations and industries, Ivan founded Promapp in 2002. Today, he manages the rapidly growing business as CEO. With his experience and passion for helping teams engage and improve their business processes and performance, Ivan has helped hundreds of companies around the world develop and foster a positive improvement culture. @ivanseselj www.promapp.com

The Process Bulldog is a lynchpin role at the heart of a healthy process culture. This role is the connection layer of your process governance structure – linking the vision of the leadership team with the creativity of the process owners and participants, the people who are involved in process challenges every day. Every organization needs one.

We previously called this role the Lead Process Champion, but at our Promapp User Summits this year the term ‘Process Bulldog’ was used to describe the attributes needed to succeed as a process champion – and everyone loved it.

So if you have a leadership team that buys into the need to invest in process, and you’ve got teams owning and managing their own processes, why would you need this role? If you already have a healthy team dynamic, do you really need bulldog tenacity to keep pushing things along? Surely, if everyone’s on board and you’re realizing good benefits from your improvement efforts, this sort of culture should just naturally feed its own momentum. There doesn’t seem to be a need for this sort of bulldog tenacity to drive systems improvement… or people improvement, so why process? That’s a good question. I think there are a couple of different answers.

Part of the problem is that we’ve been doing process improvement so badly for years now, with a focus on documentation and auditors’ procedures that teams gladly turn their backs on as soon as they’re written. But that doesn’t explain it all.

Taking shortcuts
The natural dynamic of most teams is to focus on the outcomes they are expected to deliver, both personally and as part of a team. That means when they encounter problems or events that threaten their ability to deliver, they respond by figuring out ways to overcome them. They’re good at focusing on spot fixes. The WIIFM aspect of removing barriers to deliver on your own targets is clear, and many people excel at the challenge of problem solving in this context. What teams are not so good at is following through with this effort and capturing the process know-how each time they change a process i.e. sharing these new lessons.

The human behavior at play here is the preference to just take the shortcut. You don’t need to check the process to perform the new product release. You don’t need to check the current process to figure out why the delivery was 4 days late. You can get away without it. This is where problems and assumptions come in to play that can cause repeated breakdowns, and much bigger problems down the road.

The role of the Process Bulldog
An effective Process Bulldog shifts the temporary peaks and troughs cycle of problem solving effort away from emergency response, making it an expected, ongoing activity. The WIIFM needs to be “this is part of my job.” As in, “I am the process owner for the customer complaints process. I am accountable for its effective operation, because it’s critical to our success and its part of my role.”

The Process Bulldog’s creativity, using techniques like communicating successes, announcements, improvement forums and coaching improvement techniques all contribute to the mind shift – they motivate teams to aim for something that cannot be mandated by a target. Innovation and continued improvement depend on our ability to tap into the creativity and experience of our teams.

How many Bulldogs?
There’s another key ingredient – time. The question we’re often asked is what is the right level of resourcing to invest in this Lead Process Champion role? I believe that at most organizations this role is significantly under-resourced, if at all. The reality is that building a healthy, innovative process culture takes effort, and that means time. My recommendation is that at least half an FTE should be allocated, and for larger organizations you can justify increased resourcing by tracking benefits.

It’s no coincidence that some of our best clients – who have one or two bulldogs in place – also have a healthy process culture and are achieving levels of innovation and improvement that are making a real difference to their teams and their customers alike. So if you don’t already have a Process Bulldog in your organization, I suggest you get one.

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