Why Implement an Organizational Culture of BPM?
I’m holding a focus group with some call center associates from the general customer service queue of a major financial services institution.
I’m thinking that I’m going to have to sell them on why we’re here, work hard to get their support, and tenuously pull information from them. After all, they probably don’t want to be here…this is a part-time job for some, a stepping-stone job for others, and a placeholder job for the rest…and I need their honest, and probably negative, feedback to do my job.
My job is essentially to improve their jobs. I could not have been further from the truth. “I use System A for service, System B for filing disputes, and System C to log a call-back plan; and I can’t remember all of my passwords. Why can’t we just have 1 password for everything”, someone said.“
The servicing system seems too slow, and our script doesn’t account for dead time. Improve the script, speed up the system, or allow us to ad lib”, offered another. This went on, with the group piggybacking, confirming, and nodding to each suggestion. The session ended with the request to do this regularly or at least implement a suggestion-box-type feedback loop. I knew the company had arrived at something special.
The BPM Mindset
This company had been working for years to shift its culture from people who are doers (order-takers) to those who are thinkers (innovators). They had arrived. A group of associates, with no line of sight to or reason to care about the financial bottom line of the company, wanted to improve things for that same company. They didn’t know how, they didn’t know the cost-benefit ratio, and they probably wouldn’t be with the company long enough to see a real personal benefit. They felt a sense of ownership and responsibility. They just wanted to what was right, what made sense.
Organizations can greatly benefit from such an endeavor. Whether you want to improve customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, or shareholder satisfaction; you have to get your people to stop thinking “I do it this way because that’s how it has always been done”, and start thinking “how can I improve this process?” This goes for all of your people…up, down, and across the organization…from the hourly associates manning the phones to the salaried executives on the top floor.
How can I improve this process? It’s probably the most valuable question an employee can care to ask. Think of the value gained when every employee is asking that question. No, the entire organization can’t and won’t be process professionals, with all the certifications and “belts” that come along with it.
However, anyone and everyone can be a process improvement advocate, if they care enough. Your challenge, as the leaders, the project manager, the process professionals, is to get them to care. No matter how small the job, project, scope, or role, significant improvement opportunities can be realized. Most often, it’s the lower level associates that have the highest level of knowledge about their small scope of responsibility. No one can tell you more about the ins, outs, and improvement opportunities of a call center flow than the person taking those hundreds of calls each day.
5 Ways to Initiate an Organizational Culture of BPM
- Offer an Organizational Standard of BPM Competency
- Implement a BPM Center of Excellence
- Establish Process Ownership Frameworks
- Think Agile…Improve in Iterations
- Empower Everyone
The aforementioned financial services institution chose to supplement the cultural shift with a BPM certification, offered internally to all associates by the company “university”. Any shift in mindset is going to be accompanied with whispers in the corridors and managers advising individual direct reports, but this was a direct proactive effort as an enterprise to deliver a tangible and formal way to understand the upcoming organizational expectations.
Again, the goal wasn’t an unrealistic one of actually training the entire company on the rigors of aligning people, process, and technology, and the BPM methodologies that support such initiatives. The goal was simply to increase the number of employees who had a core/basic understanding of BPM, its organizational benefits, how business processes are assets, and the importance of taking ownership of your team’s processes.
Within an organization, the more people who understand the importance of process ownership and the value of BPM (even at the base level), the stronger the organization. They lectured: Take ownership of your processes (no matter how small or seemingly insignificant) and see that they are well-managed, documented, and audit-ready at all time. Powerful. Those words stick with me even today, years later. Any process professional will tell you that given the existence of that mantra, the foundation is firmly set for vast improvement opportunities.
Is there a step-by-step solution to reach an organizational culture of BPM? Maybe. Probably.
The approach is not only difficult to standardize across organizations and industries, but it is not the initial priority. My intent is merely to spark the interest of people leaders and managers…past, present, and future…and to get them thinking about why such a shift should be implemented and sustained. Any employee can “move widgets”, but we need to develop employees who can add bonus value. The latter group of people tends to work for companies that lead in market share, revenue, and innovation…