Team Effort

6 critical success factors for process management teams

by Victor Cascella

Process management teams play a vital role in developing accountability for cross-functional processes that traditional, silo-based organization management structures struggle to provide. By paying attention to these six critical success factors, process management teams can deliver value and earn a position of influence in any organization’s performance management and improvement efforts.

1. Sufficient sponsorship and governance. Process management teams need the endorsement and support of key leaders with immediate and ultimate accountability for the processes the team is managing. Without leadership support, teams run the risk of insufficient influence and strategic direction. Good sponsors can work at the leadership level to reduce roadblocks, resolve functional disputes and build support for recommended changes.

2. The right process owner and team members. Process management team leaders are personally accountable for process performance, and possess the cross-functional collaboration and influencing skills necessary for aligning and rallying team members on results.

Team members are selected for their unique functional contributions and likely represent multiple functional perspectives. Comprehensive team member representation provides a complete view of processes, and ensures participation and buy-in for improvements from all key areas.

3. Process definition—see enough to understand what matters. A broad view of how work is performed enables process owners and teams to understand the many and varied demands imposed by each functional area, and builds a shared sense of ownership around the full process.

Make sure teams develop "fit for use" process illustrations (including an inventory of supporting IT systems) detailed only to a level needed for the management tasks at hand. Avoid big investments in areas less critical to the mission or less prone to deficiencies and risk.

4. Team alignment on the critical few strategic priorities. A common failure of process management teams is considering too many objectives and measures, rather than focusing on the critical process outcomes that only can be achieved through cross-functional collaboration.

Measures often are selected too quickly, creating an impetus for generating and reporting on metrics that may be quite invalid and irrelevant. Meaningful measures take time to develop, test and validate. Keep metrics relevant and simple—make sure the view is worth the climb.

5. Right tools, right time. Problem-solving methods, such as lean and Six Sigma, are powerful instruments on the road to operational excellence. Process management teams need access to members with knowledge of the tools and insight into what these methods may offer.

Strive to use only relevant analytical tools where appropriate, and stay focused on results. Trust the knowledge of the workforce, and augment its understanding with tools that provide insight and help illuminate and address root causes.

6. Match project scope with influence. Regardless of the knowledge a process management team may have or the potential impact of its recommendations, the scope of improvements will always be limited by the organizational influence the team is able to muster.

Attempting to jam solutions in areas where a team does not have influence or sponsorship can lead to wasted effort and frustrated team members. It will reinforce the silo mentality that is contrary to the cross-functional collaboration process management teams can inspire.

Victor Cascella is the director of business process management at MedImmune in Gaithersburg, MD. He earned an MBA from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, CA. He is a member of ASQ.

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