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Organic v. Planned Expansion

Process Management initiatives often start in a certain part of an organisation to solve a specific business problem. For example, we may find that our Customer Satisfaction Score is below target, so we prioritise our process management efforts to focus on our customer services processes. This may be the entire scope of our process management initiative, or it may be the number one priority on our way to rolling out to the rest of the organisation.  

Processes don’t sit in isolation; they have dependencies on other processes which produce their inputs or use their outputs which sit outside of the original scope. In our example, if we collected and retained better customer data during the sales process the customer service process would be more effective. So, whilst process management, when limited to a certain part of an organisation, can drive significant value, the real benefit comes where the scope of the initiative is expanded to capture upstream and downstream processes. As a result, eventually the question is inevitability asked, how do we expand?  

Broadly speaking there are two options: organic or strategic.  

Organic expansion involves relying on word of mouth, where people outside of the original scope see process management in action and ask how they can get involved and bring it to their business unit.  

Strategic expansion involves centrally deciding the order in which new parts of the organisation will be brought on, and then proactively approaching those areas to engage when the time comes.  

 

So, which is better?  

The key to expanding is that, to be successful, you need to have the desire of the business to engage. Most people’s day jobs take up 110% of their time, on top of which we all have a backlog of side projects, so unless the people in the business unit see the value in process management this will just get added to the list of projects that are never looked at.  

The organic option then immediately addresses this requirement. If the operations team are chomping at the bit to get involved and get their processes mapped because they’ve seen how it helped the finance team, given some support and guidance they are likely to be your low hanging fruit.  

The strategic option however requires much more effort. Going in, you need to assume that the people within the business unit don’t see the value in process management and therefore won’t want to direct their precious resources to the initiative. Depending on where you sit in the organisation, you may not be the right person to make the ask. Initially this needs to be raised by a strong executive sponsor at as high a level as is possible. This sponsor needs to align process management with the organisations purpose and ensure that priorities and resources are aligned to make sure that the incentives of the business unit are aligned with their participation in the process management initiative (e.g. making sure that the business unit leaders have process related KPIs, ensuring that either something is taken off their plate to free up resources to engage in process management or additional resources are provided).  

With all of this in mind, it may seem like the organic approach is the sensible option. The challenge is that it is very reactive. First and foremost, it relies on the business putting up their hand to get involved which doesn’t always happen without a prod. Beyond that, it also means that you have no say in the order in which you expand. Going back to the idea of the benefits of mapping up and downstream, if you start by mapping your sales process and then move onto your IT Helpdesk processes, while yes you are expanding, you’re not going to see the synergistic benefits that you would if you went from sales to account management.  

If I were to make a recommendation then, it would be to be strategic. From the outset you should produce a game plan for how you would like to roll out process management to your organisation and ensure that you have the support of your executive team including a strong executive sponsor. From there, approach any organic expansion opportunities with care – on the one hand we need to pick the low hanging fruit when it presents itself, but also consider the overheard to support their rollout; the worst case scenario is that you spread yourself too thin by trying to do everything and the group that you’ve identified as high priority loses momentum as you focus elsewhere, and the groups that want to engage lose their excitement when they don’t get the support they need.   

 

Please do reach out if you would like to discuss this in any way. 

Ishan Sellahewa 

ishan.sellahewa@sapartners.com 

 

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