Process owners, process steward, process custodians—many words you may have heard thrown around over the past few years. As the concept of process ownership is slowly getting traction across the board, organisations are appointing process owners more frequently than ever, and process ownership is starting to get included in role descriptions. Why is that? Why do you even need someone to manage a process when it is intrinsically the objective of a company to perform as best it can? Because each individual trying their best to make a company succeed is not sufficient anymore: there is a clear need to layout, measure, and improve processes systematically—and, for that, someone needs to be responsible for those processes. A wide array of definitions Let’s start with the necessary step of defining process ownership. Perusing the interwebs provides many definitions of the concept, some with important differences. Let’s take, as a starting point, 6 sigma’s definition, the broadest one identified: “Process owners are responsible for the management of processes within the organisation.” Process Owners (POs) are responsible to manage processes. What does manage mean? This definition does not say. Then follows two definitions with conflicting elements, illustrating well the potentially confusing nature of the process owner. On the one hand, the business dictionary defines it as “[a] person who has the ultimate responsibility for the performance of a process in realising its objectives measured by key process indicators, and has the authority and ability to make necessary changes.” On the other hand, we, at Leonardo, think of the role as more of a facilitator, where the process owner is accountable for responding when process performance is outside of the accepted range (or trending in that direction), and when a change of target is appropriate. A seemingly small difference at first, it is a crucial matter when it comes to practical applicability.
We’re all familiar with the symptoms of organisational failure. Your luggage was lost during that never-ending stopover. Your order was mixed up with another at your favourite restaurant. Your internet still isn’t working after numerous phone calls to your telecommunications provider. These various nuisances are all the result of poorly managed processes, but not just any processes, critical ones (i.e. they impact the customer directly). This post will explore critical processes; why any process that interacts with a customer could be seen as critical. I will then ask you to rate your organisation’s management of customer interactions. We’re interested in your thoughts, so feel free to offer your perspective at the end of this post.