Five Coaching Tips to Help Business Process Management Leaders Succeed

If your company is a successful organization, it has many excellent leaders. But those leaders have had training and experience to succeed in a traditional organization with a C-suite at the top and siloed business units and functions under each executive. The question is, do your executives have the skills and experience to lead a cross-functional process focused organization?

When organizations want to build a process culture, they need to identify leaders for each process improvement effort—namely an Executive Sponsor, Process Owner, Project Lead and Business Process Management (BPM) Team Facilitator. This blog focuses on how to motivate, engage, and coach the Executive Sponsor and Process Owner during a Business Process Improvement (BPI) project.

The Executive Sponsor and Process Owner bring different strengths to the BPI Project. The Executive Sponsor has wider authority and recognizes enterprise opportunities and challenges for the particular BPI Project. He is oriented outward to the full organization. He represents the project in the C-Suite, and advocates for it across the organization and to customers or suppliers. The Executive Sponsor may have many processes and Process Owners under him and may not be able to give a high level of attention to one particular project. Note also that the Executive Sponsor role in a BPI Project will usually go away after the initial improvement effort is completed, although hopefully the executive remains as an enterprise BPM advocate.

The Process Owner, by contrast, not only leads the phases of the BPI Project from the start but also drives the implementation of the redesigned process. He is also the person accountable for sustaining the process after the improvements from the BPI Project have been implemented.

The Process Owner is oriented inward toward the process. He articulates the Improvement Targets, Vision, Scope, and metrics during the Charter phase. But it is not enough that the Process Owner sees his role as a leader during this single BPI Project. He is accountable for achieving the desired outcome of the overall BPI initiative. And, he is the ongoing leader responsible for monitoring the improved process going forward. Without Process Owners, no one is minding the store, and processes can slip back to where they were before.

Remember that the Executive Sponsor and Process Owner may be new to these BPM roles. A BPM expert – it could be the outside consultant or internal BPM Team Facilitator – provides formal and informal coaching to them.

5 Tips to Build the Success of the Executive Sponsor and Process Owner

1. What’s in it for Me? (WIFM) – Start with making sure the Executive Sponsor and Process Owner are clear on how they will benefit from a particular BPI project. Is the project critical to a strategic initiative? Is it one of their pet initiatives, which is of great interest to them personally? Or, is it something where they will be honored company-wide for the success? It’s best to have the leader articulate both a personal win and a business win.

If these leaders have selected this BPI project themselves, you can guess that there is something in it for them. If the project has been selected by a boss or a BPM professional staff, it necessary to talk to them about why the BPI is important to the company and see if they agree. Then ask them, “What do you see that you will get personally from this project?”

2. Provide Support During the Charter Meeting – During the Charter meeting see if the Process Owner can easily articulate the improvement targets and vision. It may be easier to use common terms, like, “What are your goals for this BPI project?” and then turn them into improvement targets (e.g, Reduce time to market for this product). The Process Owner may not be able to give specific measurement categories for the improvement targets, so be ready to suggest some. Also see how he responds when you ask him to relate the improvement targets and vision to the company’s overall strategy. Ask the Executive Sponsor to contribute to this conversation as well.

The BPM Team Facilitator provides this guidance during the charter meeting. This role could be filled by a Business Architect, Process Improvement Expert, Lean Six Sigma Practioner, Business Analyst or Project Manager. The lead subject matter expert may also know specific content that could help.

3. Help Them Tell Compelling Stories – The Process Owner and Executive Sponsor need to be talking continuously about the BPI project, but you need to help them know what to say. It is their elevator pitch for the BPI project. They need to know what the BPI project is, its goal, some challenges, and memorable stories that reveal interesting facts or show early successes. So help them have some bullet points and sound bites to do this. Besides comments from the customer and highlights on the visual analysis map, another good sound bite is about quantitative data. Once the baseline values are known, the executive can easily say, “Today the hiring process takes 6 – 18 months and our target is to reduce that in half.” He could go on and say, “The BPI team sees many opportunities to streamline the process and we will use technology to make workflow easier and information transparent to all involved.” Another example, would be data on some Quick Wins. For example, he could say, “ We currently have 15 different hiring processes across our organization. Each one uses different templates and forms. We are going to standardize the information from the best examples, and will have two of these available online for a Quick Win in just two more weeks.”

From your role as a BPM Team Facilitator or Project Lead, it is helpful to have these compelling sound bites ready for the Process Owner and discuss them; then have a shared repository where you can put them for their use next time they need them.

4. Guidance During the BPI Project – During the BPI project the Project Lead and BPM Team Facilitator have scheduled meetings with the Process Owner and Executive Sponsor. This meeting should take place about 3 times during the BPI project, after each phase, e.g. after Process Discovery, Process Analysis, Process Design, and Implementation Plan. The Project Lead and Team Facilitator are sharing what has happened in the project during each phase. For example, during the Process Discovery phase they would be sharing the current state process diagram(s), the baseline values for the metrics, and what challenges and improvement ideas have already surfaced. The Process Owner needs to know what questions to ask, and also know what actions he should volunteer to take. I provide them a cheat sheet ahead of time with relevant questions and actions at each phase. The BPM Team Facilitator can bring some of those questions up as well. Of course, you always want to know what interests them, or what their perspective is at each phase.

5. Engage the Process Owner and Executive Sponsor Provocatively – At each of these BPI review meetings with the leaders, think about how to engage the leaders meaningfully. In other words, look at the process from their level and identify what will interest them and focus on those topics. I have two that always work: (1) the voice of the customer and (2) visual analysis. After the team has collected input from the customer, everyone wants to know about it. So have it summarized in a simple but meaningful way – such as what they want, need and desire from the process, how the process is evaluated today, and what an excellent evaluation would look like in the future. In addition to the overall summary, have a few anecdotes that come from the customer’s mouth.

Visual analysis is another method. Here show the current process diagram in swimlanes (This is a ‘yawner’ by itself.) and put icons on it to show where there are wastes, where the customer needs new functionality or says something is missing, or how long certain sub processes take. Turn the process diagram into a picture with key problem or opportunity areas highlighted. This makes the diagram come alive and is a great conversation starter with the executives.

As a good coach, your client is both the organization and the leaders. So keep looking for strategic benefits and personal rewards to engage the leaders about the BPI project.


About the Author

Shelley SweetShelley Sweet, the Founder and President of I4 Process, and author of The BPI Blueprint, is a highly respected BPM Practitioner. She provides consultation, workshops and training programs for clients ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, and government organizations. Her programs are based on a unique 3-PEAT method of modeling processes and analyzing data that accelerates operational improvements, and builds leaders and employees who sustain operational excellence. Want to learn more about BPM metrics? Email Shelley at: [email protected]

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