Jumpstarting Process Improvement in Your Organization: The Top 10 Essentials (Part 4 of 10)

Essential #4: A sufficient organizational hierarchy to support process improvement.  Big words, I know.  In order for process improvement to take root and prosper, the business must be organized in way that allows both the process improvement specialist(s) and the front line staff to be effective.  This structure has three elements: A dedicated position, senior leadership reporting, and breadth of influence.

  1. A dedicated position allows the process improvement specialist to focus on only one thing – process improvement.  Part-time or ad hoc specialists are mineffective when they have to balance two or more roles. The “fire-fighting” or myopic perspective of the primary job function will almost always take precedent over longer-range, higher value work.  Most literature, training, and experts propose dedicating at least one (or more depending on the size of your organization) full-time person to process improvement activities.
  2. The successful process improvement specialist must have a reporting structure that allows access, feedback, and accountability at the top levels of the organization.  For specialists to be most effective, they must have unfiltered access to senior leaders to make quick, and often business-changing decisions.   Organizational inertia (“that’s the way we’ve always done it!”) is the single biggest roadblock to process improvement.  To counteract this inertia, the specialist relies almost entirely on the leadership to help move past this dynamic.
  3. The process improvement specialist must have a bird’s eye view of the organization – one that allows him or her to see both the forest and the trees.  Too often, well-intentioned exec’s kick-start a process improvement initiative and then bury the specialist in the organization, limiting his or her effectiveness.  A better alternative is to position the specialist at a level that serves the entire organization, both strategically and operationally.

The road to continuous improvement can take many twists and turns.  Organizations have taken different approaches on to how best deploy resources.  Having the process improvement specialist in the right structure and at a high enough level will foster a non-adversarial relationship between the specialist and the front line staff.  It also facilitates quick decisions at the top allowing great solutions to be implemented expeditiously.

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