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In the life of any organization, there are many milestones which have historic value in the growth of the organization. One such milestone is the commencement of Process Mapping and it’s documentation. CEO’s take this decision for various reasons. Some amongst them are – it is fashionable, it is a prerequisite to getting ISO certification, competitors have done it, mistakes and errors are

Figure 1 - Picture from See the attention being paid to the Top by the boy!

Figure 1 – Picture from
See the attention being paid to the Top by the boy!

happening all over the place, key employees have left and people have no body to guide them and so on. Whatever be the reason, it sure is a celebration mile-stone, equivalent to individual’s birthday – to be celebrated each year – but with added responsibility for status review each quarter!

When a CEO triggers the Process Journey – he is expected to make two promises:

  1. To personally support the efforts till the documentation and initial implementation is completed.
  2. To personally review the progress of continued usage and improvement at least every quarter.

The first promise is obvious. The importance of the second promise is better understood if we imagine that initiating this project is like keeping a top (Indian Lattu Wooden Toy) spinning all the time. By nature, the Top continues to spin and remain vertical due to rotational momentum / gyroscopic effect. As soon as it stops, someone has to again provide the requisite energy. All processes are like spinning the top – they require a constant watch and external support (motivation?) to keep them going.

Top is a physical entity and it is easy to know when it needs support. How does one know when the Process Journey needs external support? Like a human system, when one is unhealthy, some uncomfortable symptoms develop. We have a choice to ignore them. But being responsible for our own bodies, we normally don’t ignore them. However, similar symptoms pertaining to process failure are likely to be ignored – by participants, process owners as well as other stake holders, unless management is vigilant. What are these symptoms? Some of these can be:

  1. Some employees stop measuring or recording the process outcomes. These are generally those disgruntled employees who feel that sharing data would make them less important. They have been approached almost by everyone in the past for each and every thing. They have been useful and had long innings with the company and follow orders only of very senior management only.
  2. Many fields in the data formats / forms remain unfilled or left blank with no-one asking “Why?” or even revising the format. I have seen it happening in many organizations. When asked about the reason, I was told that this data is very difficult to get. When I countered that why has the form not been revised, everyone was surprised. It never occurred to them that this was their own form and that process owner has the liberty to make changes in the form.
  3. Formats are filled and submitted. However, no one analyses the data or checks the satisfaction of the operations. Since analysis is not done, no feedback is given. Once this is observed by the employees, they get demotivated and slowly start taking casual approach to following the processes.
  4. Check lists are not taken seriously and are just signed for having been complied. As an example, a check list in an EPC company required that before a drawing is approved for construction, all points on a check list be confirmed. One check list point required that it has been assured that the outer end of the foundation is at least “x” distance away from the nearest foundation. Even though it was confirmed, frequent foundation interference was reported from site. In spite of frequent training and follow-ups, this error continued. Management then changed the process and now enforced that for each foundation drawing, the distance to the nearest foundation shall be written. This way, the designers were forced to look seriously and dig that data. This succeeded and the number of site issues reduced.
  5. Formats are filled with cooked data. Supervisor himself is not convinced of the utility of the form and therefore fill the formats based on their gut feeling rather than ground reality. This shows a behavior called “Compliant” rather than “Contributory”.

“Unused data is as good as “DEAD” – occupying costly space in files or data storage system.”

There are many more types of symptoms, but as we can see they are mostly linked to human behavior and motivation. No amount of coxing or requests or reprimands or consequences would work, if the culture has been allowed to deteriorate systematically by not keeping the second promise of the CEO i.e. “To personally review the progress of continued usage and improvement every quarter.” The top has stopped turning without the external stimulus – the never ending journey has ended! Watch out for symptoms and take timely actions. CEOs just can’t delegate every thing – some promises must be kept at all costs.

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V K Mehandru


Author: nimblesystems

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  1. Good points as always. If CEO see a value in Process Improvement project (not mapping) he will spend time on it. I think improvement projects are started out of conviction for change while mapping is done as they may be considered fashionable,or for ISO or competitors have done it. So should process improvement of part of top 5 KPIs of CEO? How does involvement of CEO change depending upon the size of organization? In bigger organization, can this responsibility be passed on to a Process improvement team/committee?

    • Sanjeev, thank you for your comments.

      In my view Process Mapping is the starting point for any PIP – Process Improvement Project. Most of the clients who engaged Nimble wanted to get the processes mapped to start with. Very few have yet used it effectively – but we are at it. The intent of the mail is to trigger thinking so that benefits of their investment can start accruing. When things start going bad, we always look for the processes which did not work well, so that these can be modified and improved. This does not happen, unless the review meetings about status pf processes takes place at regular intervals, where CEO manages by just asking questions. Some of these are:

      1. So what has been going well?
      2. What did not work?
      3. Which activities have required rework?
      4. How can we reduce cycle time?
      5. Which activities need better skills? What are we doing about it?

      Tragedy is that such meetings are not given due importance. You suggestion about process improvement being part of CEO’s KPI is very relevant. But it needs to we made measurable. Some suggestions are:

      1. Measure of cycle time reduction of any service or product. For example if marketing takes 10 days of average time to send out a quotation, what has been the average reduction in days. Similar measures can be identified for many processes and lumped up together.
      2. Measure of Quality – like stock outages, product returns etc.
      3. Measure of percentage reduction in cost of providing services or a product.

      These three measures force the organization to continuously improve, adopt current / better technology and eliminate waste and improve processes.

      Except for very large organizations say over 2000 employees onwards, the CEO him / herself would better take this as his own responsibility. It sends the right message below. For larger organizations, they are managed in a way that each SBU would work like a CEO. The point is that unless a very Senior Person makes the continuous Process Improvement as one of his key responsibility, the organizations stop improving and remain competitive. In the present business improvement you have to beat your own performance every day to retain your market position. CEO’s generally set up a suitable TEAM to help him on this front – but must find the time to oversee it and keep pushing the envelope.

      Thank you for your observations and I hope my comments above add further value.

  2. Very good article.CEO must ensure firstly that the Process journey is well understood and most importantly accepted by the employees that it is in their best interests.Many senior employees dislike sharing information or even positively helping their colleagues/subordinates as they feel they will lose their power.So they put their selfish ego over the long term good of the organization.Here CEO must remain vigilant and impress upon proper following of laid down systems by all.As you rightly said the spinning top must be continuously watched and remedial action immediately taken at first sign that the top is slowing down.Not wait till it collapses completely and then start all over.

    • Dear Mr. Mustafa

      You have rightly pointed out a major issue in change management – the issue of senior employees not aligned with what CEO wishes to accomplish. This is a deep culture rooted issue with no easy answers. However each CEO has to solve this issue in the manner which suits him and the organization. If there are many seniors who are not aligned – the issue might be at the CEO’s end it-self. Any change in the organization cannot be just rolled down from the top, we need to look at the soft issues as well before we start with the change process . There are ways to solve these issues – the solution varies based on organizational dynamics and stage at which the senior colleagues team operate. Nimble can support organizations by providing guidance in Organization Development. Should you be interested, we can take it off-line. Don’t hesitate to contact me at ( or Pawan Bhandari at

      Thank you for taking time to go through our Blog and providing your valuable inputs.

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