Team Advantage

Maintaining a high-performance process management team

by Victor Cascella

This article was featured in January 2016’s Best Of Back to Basics edition.

Process management teams provide a framework through which complex, cross-functional processes can be assessed and optimized.

Typical team members include—

  • A process owner, accountable for overall performance and with direct control over the majority of resources involved.
  • Sub-process owners, representing major supporting functions.
  • Representatives from business areas with vested interest in the process, such as compliance, finance or IT.

In addition, lean Six Sigma-trained process engineers are beneficial when improvement and measurement are key team objectives.

By focusing on the following seven activities, process management teams can provide the value they are often uniquely positioned to deliver.

1. Process mapping. Process management teams use a variety of process mapping tools designed to match the intent of the mapping activity. These may include top-down illustrations, detailed flowcharts, value stream maps and swim-lane flowcharts.

Process maps also help teams identify interactions with key IT systems and supporting processes, such as financial reporting and training. Accurate process maps at the right level of detail not only deliver visibility into how work gets done, but also will serve as a basis for measurement, evaluation, accountability and continuous improvement.

2. Process performance measurement and goal setting. With the right data, process management teams can quantify performance levels, and establish meaningful targets and improvement objectives. In turn, process management teams can work to determine the factors that influence process performance, and identify functional areas and sub-processes with the greatest impact on outcomes. A subset of these measures may serve as a process dashboard or scorecard reviewed by team members on a regular basis.

3. Process analysis. Thorough, fact-based assessments of a process enable teams to identify the root causes of complex—and perhaps less obvious—process problems and failure modes. When the link to strategy is clear, and when armed with the right information, process management teams can become the premier authority for making informed, intelligent decisions regarding where and how improvement resources are best applied for maximum impact on performance.

4. Process risk assessment. Process management teams must understand and quantify the risks to achieving process goals and objectives. In addition to accounting for operational risks, process management teams must stay alert to other critical risk dimensions, such as financial and compliance risk. Analytical tools such as failure modes and effects analysis can help evaluate risk.

5. Project selection and management. A key responsibility of process management teams is to sponsor, launch and manage improvement projects. Exceptional process management teams are likely running and managing a portfolio of concurrent—and often integrated—improvement efforts focused on a few critical business outcomes.

6. Getting changes to stick. Changing processes almost always requires changes to people’s behaviors—sometimes drastic changes from the past. This becomes a challenge when attempting to get changes and improvements to stick, requiring process management teams to be particularly concerned about improvement sustainability. Success requires following through on new procedures and behaviors to ensure they are fully understood and adopted by the members expected to carry them out.

7. Leveraging best practices. Process management teams may achieve gains in process areas that are very similar, or sometimes even identical, to those that reside in other geographical or organizational elements of the same business. By working with other business units throughout their organizations, the teams can identify and capitalize on better ways of working and leverage their local best practices more broadly.

Victor Cascella is the director of business process management at MedImmune in Gaithersburg, MD. He earned an MBA from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA. He is a member of ASQ.

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