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Resourcing For Successful Process Management

Process Management: The Ikea Approach 


What does Ikea and Process Management have in common?  


The decentralisation of the build phase. One way in which Ikea is able to offer furniture at a price point below its competition is that, unlike its competitors who pay labourers to assemble their furniture, Ikea makes use of free labour (i.e. you).  


Similarly, many process management initiatives adopt a decentralised build approach where Process Owners within the line of business are asked to map their own processes. This is not necessarily a bad choice as it can result in better adoption – in the same way, that we are more likely to maintain and hang onto furniture that we assembled with our own hands, we may be more likely to use, enforce, and maintain processes that we mapped out ourselves. The problem however comes when organisations simply assume that if we ask the business to map their own processes it will get done. So, in this post, I’d like to explore how to resource your process management build phase to ensure success.  


  1. Consider your scope and estimate your resource requirements  

Before you start, you need to understand what you’re trying to achieve and how fast you want to achieve it. You may, for example, say that the scope of this initiative is to map out all of your organisation’s processes within the year, or perhaps it’s to map out 70% of your sales, finance, and HR processes within the next 18 months. Once you know what you’d like to achieve, you need to estimate what resources are required to achieve these objectives.  


2. Secure your resources  

Often, an Executive Sponsor driving a process management initiative will make the decision that a decentralised approach to the build phase will be taken, and then it is left to a Project Manager to make it happen. This approach not only assumes that the line of business has enough capacity to absorb this additional workload, but also they are happy to assign this excess capacity to mapping processes (spoiler alert, in the real world neither of these assumptions hold true).   

Clearly, its not enough for your Executive Sponsor to make a decision to decentralise rather, once they have decided that decentralisation is the most appropriate approach, they then need to go and secure the resources. This will involve selling the benefits of Process Management to the wider business and winning the hearts and minds of the people managers who own the time of your process owners and experts. Ideally, the work shouldn’t stop here, to maximise your chances of success, the next step is to secure these resources by updating the performance targets and objectives of the process owners to include their process management expectations (e.g. in Q2 you will spend 5 days on process management and will map out the Accounts Payable processes) . At the end of the day, we spend our time on the activities against which we are measured; given that most people have more objectives than they have time, side projects invariably get forgotten (or at best deprioritised) so it’s critical that process management is a defined objective, not just something on the side.  

If done correctly, you will now have a reasonably accurate understanding of the mapping resources at your disposal.  


3. Align your resources with your scope  

Once you have identified how much mapping resources you have available, you should compare this with the resources required to achieve your objectives. If the numbers align, you’re good to go, if not, you have a few different options:  

  • Go back to the line of business and ask for more resources  
  • Move to a more centralised approach by either building a central team in-house or engaging consultants to provide external resources  
  • Narrow the scope of the initiative by mapping fewer groups, or fewer processes per group within the original timeframe 
  • Extend the timeframe so that you achieve your original scope, but do so over a longer period of time  
  • Reduce the quality expectations (e.g. only identify the requirement for Work Instructions rather than creating and attaching them) to reduce the amount of time required per process such that you can achieve your original scope within your original timeframe  


Returning to the Ikea metaphor, if we find ourselves with one weekend to build all of the furniture for our new house in addition to our regular weekend activities, we can choose to either involve more members of our family to assist with the assembly, agree that this weekend we will prioritise just the bedroom furniture and tackle the rest of the house over the coming weeks, or just get an army of air-taskers in to assemble everything for us.  


Ultimately, you need to end up in a situation where the numbers balance between the resources required, and the resources available.  


One of the biggest reasons why organisations fail to achieve their process management goals is that they assume that the business will drop everything to give you mapping resources and therefore never get out of the build phase. My message here is to be realistic – understand what you need, what you have, and, if the two don’t align, work out how you are going to balance the equation.   

Ishan Sellahewa

Digital  Transformation Business Manager   


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