The Process Bulldog: A critical process role

Ivan Seselj
Posted: 08/17/2017

The Process Bulldog

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.

Often referred to as the Lead Process Champion, ‘Process Bulldog’ describes the attributes needed to succeed as a process champion.  Tenacity.  Persistence. Chutzpah.

A lead process champion needs to have ‘fire in their belly.’  They need to be prepared to fight with energy and determination for what they believe is right.

Why do organizations need a Process Bulldog?

Many organizations believe it’s enough to have a leadership team that buys into the importance of process as well as teams that own and manage their own processes. If you already have a healthy team dynamic, do you really need a tenacious Process Bulldog 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 would you need one to drive process improvement? 

Part of the problem is that we’ve been doing process improvement so badly for years now. The focus has often been on documentation and compliance at the expense of team engagement.  But that doesn’t explain it all. A healthy process culture begins with your people.  And people are good at finding and taking shortcuts.

We’re good at 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 that 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, reactively.  The what’s-in-it-for-me (WIIFM) aspect of removing barriers to deliver on their 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 on this effort and capturing the process know-how each time they change a process.  In other words, new lessons aren’t always shared - within or across teams.  That means missed improvement opportunities and potential cost and performance impacts for your organization.   

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 four days late. You don’t need to suggest an improvement or update an existing process. You can get away without it.  This is where problems come in to play in the form of repeated process breakdowns, which can often result in 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 it’s part of my role.”

Innovation and continued improvement depend on our ability to tap into the creativity and experience of our teams.  The Process Bulldog’s creative use of techniques like communicating successes, making relevant announcements, implementing process improvement forums and providing coaching on improvement techniques will all contribute to the mind shift - they motivate teams to aim for something that cannot be mandated by a target.  They keep process improvement top of mind and part of everyone’s, every day.

The resource challenge

There’s another key ingredient to BPM success - time. A question for many organizations is “what is the right level of resourcing to invest in the Lead Process Champion role?” I believe the role is significantly under-resourced, if it’s even resourced at all, in most organizations.

The reality is that building a healthy, innovative process culture takes effort, and that means time. My recommendation is that at least half a full-time equivalent (FTE) should be allocated, and for larger organizations you should be able to justify increased resourcing by tracking the benefits.

It’s no coincidence that organizations that invest in resourcing process improvement efforts - who have one or two Process 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 – someone with the passion and tenacity to do the job well.  It’s a critical process role to drive your business improvement culture.  

Ivan Seselj
Posted: 08/17/2017

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