Road Map for Process ImprovementReliable advice on how to get a demanding job done is golden. Such advice is what Michael Hammer provides in his article, "The Process Audit," published in the April 2007 issue of the Harvard Business Review.
The job in question is planning, implementing and monitoring improvement in business processes, such as order fulfillment or insurance underwriting. Hammer's advice is to assess two sets of characteristics:
- Process enablers characteristics of a process that enable sustained high performance.
- Enterprise capabilities characteristics of the enterprise that allow process improvements to take root.
Hammer derived his five process enablers and four enterprise capabilities from research conducted with a number of companies over a five-year period. He calls the framework in which the enablers and capabilities are assessed the Process and Enterprise Maturity Model (PEMM).
Process enablers are characteristics essential for any process to perform well:
- Design subdivided into purpose, context (customer needs, related processes), and documentation. The ideal is a fully comprehensive specification of how the process is to be executed (who does what, what steps are carried out in what order, etc.).
- Performers subdivided into knowledge, skills, and behavior of those who execute the process. This is where training needs make their most prominent appearance.
- Owner subdivided into identity, activities, and authority of a senior executive who has responsibility for the process and its results. A senior executive is necessary in order to have effective management of the cross-functional aspects of the process. Note that process owners may need training in order to handle their responsibilities well.
- Infrastructure subdivided into information systems and human resource systems (hiring, development, rewards and recognition) supporting the process.
- Metrics subdivided into the definition and the uses of the measures the enterprise monitors in order to track the process's performance.
- Leadership assessed in terms of awareness, alignment, behavior, and style of senior management as they oversee enterprise processes.
- Culture with emphasis on the teamwork, customer focus, responsibility, and attitude toward change that are necessary for effective cross-functional work.
- Expertise assessed by looking both at the skills of the people guiding process improvements, and at the soundness of the methodology they use.
- Governance covers the mechanisms in place for managing complex projects and change initiatives. Assessment focuses on the sophistication of the process model, accountability for enterprise performance, and integration amongst processes.
- the enablers are present only to a weak degree. The process in question is reliable and predictable, but falls well short of optimal.
- the capabilities are limited. For example, "There is a widespread belief that customer focus is important, but there is limited appreciation of what that means."
- the process enablers support high performace that encompasses not only the enterprise itself, but also its customers and suppliers.
- the capabilities are similarly present in full flower, not only within the enterprise, but also in the enterprise's interactions with customers and suppliers.