Periodically, I get to meet with senior leaders in large organizations. Often, it’s me and someone subordinate to them. You know the drill: the department director is charged with making things work well and wants you to meet the CEO or some other leader so “we can build the business case” for some initiative or another. They have tried with all of their might to promote their effort and the leaders don’t quite get it.
If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them
Senior leaders in organizations (especially if they have an MBA!) are very well-versed in the use of “line of sight” models. At least they should be. They understand that they have a mission to lead, a vision to manifest and goals to get them there. It’s the responsibility of anyone promoting a change or re-engineering or design of workflow (read: “BPM, BPI”) to engage themselves and their leaders in a little “line of sight” activity. First, however, you have to know what your drivers are.
Driving for Line of Sight
First, line of sight refers to one’s ability to see a task in relation to a process in relation to a product in relation to a customer in relation to a goal in relation to a mission in relation to a vision. All the way up and all the way down. Lately, measuring every stage in that line of sight has become very popular for good reason. Metrics throughout the line of sight keep us oriented. But what do you do when change has to happen throughout that web of relations?
What Are Your Drivers?
You have to able to see your change coming. There are regulatory drivers of change. There are legal drivers. What other kinds of drivers are there in your organization? I have worked for nearly twenty years in healthcare and I can attest to the myriad drivers. There are quality assurance drivers, quality improvement drivers, technology (automation) drivers, public sentiment drivers and financial drivers. In the development of your line of sight, include drivers as the cross-hairs. That’s how important they are. They are the speed limit signs on the side of the highway. How else would you know to slow down? Braking tail-lights on ther car ahead? That’s another. What about an animal running across the road? A flat tire? A warning light on your dashboard telling you the car is over-heating?
There are all kinds of drivers and you MUST take a full inventory of them. Make them known to senior leaders. When a driver comes along like a new customer demand that no lead paint be used to make your toys brighter, bring it immediately to the attention of leadership. Let them know explicitly it is the driver for change and that you have a method for addressing the change in workflow, process analysis and product output.
Tying Drivers and Workflow Initiatives Together
As you organize your workflow project and assemble the team for documentation of the current state, future state and the gap analysis, make sure they all fully understand the driver. You might even name the project after the driver to make it sticky! As you consider a more complex project with a timeline and milestones, connect that critical path to the driver. Many drivers come with due dates. For instance, if your quality improvement initiative is set to begin gathering baseline data in a month and test data in two months in order to produce a report a third month later, use those targets in establishing your project to modify workflow.
Not So Easy
This all sounds remedial, I know. It isn’t as easy as it sounds. The problem an over-burdened analyst or department head faces is that they have other things cooking, let alone this project. So they get busy on the project (re-engineering their business process) and come to a point where they realize they need additional resources. Perhaps they need to procure (this is fun in government!) a new machine or piece of software. Now they have to go back to the boss (the senior leader or CEO) and make their case. If they haven’t kept pace with their driver, you can imagine the response they’ll get from the boss. “Why?” Why is a deal-killer. Why, for the uninitiated, almost always is followed by “because” and “no”. Think of meeting driver’s expectations as the carrot. The senior leaders need to know what’s in it for them and they need to know what the consequences are should they choose not to authorize your forward progress.
Drivers are strategic in nature. So are senior leaders. That’s why line of sight is so popular. Leverage the strategic nature of things. Make sure they know that failure to adapt to a new regulation, law or quality initiative will result in loss. Loss of customers, loss of revenue, loss of opportunity. If the driver is a barrier or obstacle, make sure they know it must be overcome. If the driver is an opportunity, quantify it for them.
This Should Be a No-Brainer
It should but it often isn’t. If you’re the project manager, write your project charter so the drivers, the strategic objectives and the consequences are clear. Align your timeline so it snaps to the driver’s timeline. Then deliver on-time and heap praise upon your senior-most champion. Don’t take any of these for granted.
Branding Your Business Process or Workflow Project
I talked about the importance of naming your project in honor of your driver. This may sound foolish but brand it too. Give it a strong, attractive name and get the graphics or marketing folks to create a logo and poster for you. If the critical path is important, make it easy to read and understand. Hang the poster up and make the senior leader the widely heralded champion of this noble cause. Branding it will help keep people aware and motivated and it will improve the odds that people understand the importance of the driver. It will also motivate people to change when the time comes for them to change.
Remember to celebrate your accomplishments.