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Karen Martin

Karen Martin: The best way to assure sustainability is to establish a strong process management culture with clearly defined processes

By Karen Martin, - Last updated: Friday, June 28, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

I frequently work with large organizations with
dispersed workforces and nearly always begin with tried-and-true value
stream mapping to provide clarity about the interconnectedness between
various work teams and to, ultimately, shift siloed thinking and behaving
from function-centric to customer-centric. The next step I take is
situational. It’s often helpful to organize the company around value
streams, while building the means to assure policy consistency within
specific functions. In a highly structured company that’s organization
chart-dependent, this can often be accomplished by creating solid-line
reporting across the value stream and dotted-line reporting to functional
leaders. It’s sometimes beneficial to centralize certain functions to
create greater organizational flexibility (e.g., call centers with
significant demand fluctuations) and leverage subject matter expertise
(e.g. legal/regulatory functions). But my bias is typically toward
decentralization when it makes business sense.

Naturally, the best way to assure sustainability is to establish a strong
process management culture with clearly defined processes, clearly defined
key performance indicators (KPIs), and clearly defined process owners who:
1) are close to the work, 2) are accountable for process performance, 3)
have the authority to problem solve and lead improvement when the KPIs
indicate the need or it’s time to raise the bar, and 4) have the bandwidth
to perform effectively in this role. Unfortunately, many organizations
fail to meet all three of the above criteria that result in work that’s
well managed. Yet, in my experience, when organizations have strong
process management and continuous improvement cultures in place, it
matters less where people are physically located. When an organization’s
foundation is cracked, physical distance exacerbates the problem.

I hope this provides a little food for thought.

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