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Process Improvement, Process Management

Process Owners: the key to embed Process Management

j0302836A recent conversation with a client went along the following lines:

Client: “We’ve tried to do lots of process improvement

Me: “That’s good; what sort of improvements did you achieve?

Client: “Not many. We came up with lots of ideas and “To Be” maps, but there always seemed to be someone responsible for part of the process who objected to the changes, so we couldn’t get them implemented

Me: “Do you have Process Owners who are accountable for the end-to-end performance and improvement of those processes?

Client: “No, what’s a Process Owner

I probably don’t need to go any further as the point was made. If you don’t have end-to-end Process Owners with the clout to make improvement happen, either it won’t happen or you’ll end up sub-optimising parts of a process and simply moving problems up or down stream.

Many organisations have implemented a variety of Process Improvement projects to address performance problems related to customer service, efficiency, flexibility and cycle-time.  For example, in some organisations key targets were being missed and senior management teams saw Process Improvement as a useful way to get performance back on track.

I have facilitated projects in the public and private sectors that delivered service improvements, reduced costs, increased capacity and dramatically reduced cycle-times. One of the key success factors in delivering improvements was the appointment of Process Owners: single, named individuals who had the accountability for improving “their process”.  Mostly, they did a great job and the project teams achieved their objectives and then disbanded.

What often didn’t happen though was the transition from Process Improvement to Process Management, where there is a different role for Process Owners.

A 1996 study by the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) found that in organisations that were “well progressed” with process management, 91% had appointed senior executives as Process Owners and 57% had also appointed middle managers.  By contrast, only 59% of those organisations in the early stages had appointed senior executives and the same percentage had appointed middle managers.  Interestingly, 57% of the “well progressed” organisations had appointed Process Owners for all their processes.

Today, more and more organisations are developing approaches to Process Management, with a range of improvement objectives: improving consistency, reducing risks and non-compliance, removing non-value-add (waste), or making processes more flexible and agile.

Process Owners are key to embedding effective Process Management and it’s no longer adequate simply to appoint someone, knowing that their job will be done in a couple of months.  So, what is the role of the Process Owner in helping to embed Process Management?  It includes…

  • Ensuring the process is fully defined, including its interfaces with other processes
  • Establishing the standards that must be applied and the performance targets that must be achieved
  • Regularly reviewing performance with the staff operating the process and identify corrective actions required
  • Regularly reviewing performance with other stakeholders (e.g. customers and suppliers) to identify changes and improvements
  • Ensuring the process is benchmarked against relevant comparators, to stimulate step-change improvements

Read more of my articles on Process Improvement.
















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