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
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:
- To personally support the efforts till the documentation and initial implementation is completed.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.