Your Chief Process Officer is key to driving organizational change!

A successful change culture depends on the leadership team...

Ivan Seselj
Posted: 11/08/2017


While most people are aware of the important role leadership plays in organizational change, many management teams still struggle with exactly how to provide this support amongst their many other priorities. 

A successful change culture depends on the leadership team signaling their commitment to change. As well as setting the vision for what the business is trying to achieve, leadership support empowers the change agents working directly with teams so they can drive real changes in behavior and lift capabilities throughout the organization. 

Without this support, change programs can lose focus or disintegrate into disjointed efforts by different teams, before eventually fading away into corporate memory as another failed change effort.   

Structured responsibilities from the top

Ongoing change doesn’t just happen. It depends on a governance structure of responsibilities coordinating the champions of change, process owners and participants.   

When it comes to the top of this pyramid - choosing the right Chief Process Officer (CPO) is critical. The CPO is the leadership team’s representative. They drive change and push the organization.  

Often organizations select their CPO based on passion and skill but this isn’t necessarily the right strategy. 

Critical role, critical failure

Passion and skill are not enough – the CPO also needs to have clout. They need to be able to create cultural change by rewarding people when they do well and pushing them if they lag behind. For that reason, the CPO really needs to be a member of the executive team. As much as we all wish our companies had a flat hierarchy, the reality is that more junior team members often don’t carry the influence they need to implement change. 

The proof is in the process

The value of having a CPO in the C-suite is proven and measurable. Those organizations with an executive level Chief Process Officer have far better engagement. 

In fact, it’s a statistical red flag when the executive team isn’t interested in being involved. Business process management works best when the management team is invested – emotionally and literally – in the outcome. Without that drive from the top, adoption across the business is likely to be less successful. 

When the CPO role is given to someone at a more junior level, process improvement becomes something optional or extra. It gets put off until people have time. Which is to say, never. 

Influencing improvement

From our experience working with hundreds of organizations around the world, we know that the CPO role is critical to the success of ongoing improvement efforts, and that the role should be filled from the C-suite. We also know, based on business process management (BPM) Research conducted by TNS Global Research firm, that 84% of businesses still don’t have a person in this role.   

Without engagement from a member of the executive team, it’s difficult to engage the rest of your staff. And if your staff aren’t fully behind process improvement, it’s not going to be successful. 

It is from the C-suite that the right conditions can be created for a collaborative culture of change across your organization. It’s no longer good enough to run improvement initiatives, to capture process knowledge at great expense, and to ‘hope’ that changes will be operationalized and sustained.  

Maintaining the momentum

While projects usually start off well, many gradually lose momentum. When motivation and engagement falter, teams revert to the old way of doing things. These kinds of problems can be exacerbated by unhelpful process documentation or a lack of acknowledgement by management of the achievements being made.  

A CPO with executive clout can maintain the focus with evidence of top-down commitment. They are more likely to have their communications read, and acted upon. 

Emails, dashboard notifications, project portals and meetings are opportunities to celebrate successes and acknowledge those who have performed over and above – people are often more productive when their contributions are recognized. Sharing information – both positive and negative – is essential in maintaining the integrity of communications. 

CPO-led, regular improvement opportunities - such as workshops, separate from audit or process review sessions – will allow the sharing of ideas and encourage cross-fertilization between teams. You can pinpoint problems, opportunities and customer satisfaction successes.  

Beware of ‘behind closed doors’

When you have executive ownership, you still need buy-in from the staff who use the processes every day. Problems will arise if the creation and management of new processes is undertaken behind closed doors, by people who are isolated from the employees who use them.  

Sustainable process improvement isn’t something you can just turn on - it takes a structured, team approach. Everyone needs to be able to participate, just as everyone needs to be involved in the drive for incremental change. Process champions  empowered by an active CPO will be able to drive improvement down to the day-to-day level and ensure its continuity.

Then the processes can achieve their goals of improving business function and outcomes.

PEX Network's "2017 Global state of process excellence" report provides insight in to how businesses are implementing change  within their organization.

Ivan Seselj
Posted: 11/08/2017


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