Got Process? How Using Process Frameworks Can Improve Business Performance

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland's picture

I recently talked with Carla Wolfe, Senior Business Analyst at Elevations Credit Union, to discuss how her organization used APQC’s Process Classification Framework (PCF) and other tools to build an Enterprise Process Map and how the organization’s collaborative use of software tools provided a platform for cross-enterprise engagement and viral cultural change.

Q: Before Elevations Credit Union implemented the PCF, you lacked ownership and governance in most of the way the organization did business. What were the biggest problems and how did it affect the business?

A: The problems were pervasive and, the biggest concern was that most of the organizational knowledge was tribal and primarily held by long-term employees in key roles. Our organization was positioning for growth as well as seeking merger partners.  To further acerbate the issue the turbulent economy and credit unions’ battle for market share with large banks and dramatic changes in banking technology were all drivers. It was no longer sustainable to manage by email, large consensus meetings and running to a SME’s office for decisions on the fly.

Q: When you started your five year plan, it began with a simple survey of employees. You stressed keeping it simple and engaging. What were your reasons for this?

A:  We had a tremendous cultural hurdle. We were pursuing a National Quality Award and were starting at ground zero. Our organization was full of super-heroes who were dedicated to their jobs. However, this super-hero culture had created an operational style built on reacting rather than planning; we had terrific fire-fighting skills. Changing a culture is a not easy and it felt like we needed to level-set the playing field without creating anxiety. The survey was a simple starting point to subtly and safely allow respondents to reflect “Got Process?” There were no right or wrong answers. More importantly, the PCF was a powerful tool for the survey because we were able to provide “possible” processes for respondents to consider which simultaneously planted the seed “this is how other organizations work.” We were also able to engage all organizational leaders at once and were able to benchmark the organization as a whole rather than singling out any particular group or department.

Q:   In the first year, you really focused on making sure employees embraced change.  What were the biggest hurdles to accomplishing this?

A:  Being an expert fire-fighter was highly rewarded.  However, there was no intrinsic motivation to share everything you worked hard to know (and makes you valuable) and write it down and share your process. In essence, give away your power.

Q: At the end of year one of PCF implementation, what was the biggest success you had?

A: We had a single source of truth for all things “process.” We were able to start shaping conversations around process categories rather than departments. This was a significant breakthrough since the focus was now on the organization’s performance as a whole rather than individual departments or individuals.

If you would like to learn more you can check out the recording of the  ‘Got Process? How to use a classification framework to improve business performance’ webinar.


Anonymous's picture

I'd like to see that survey

Anonymous's picture

Carla, besides a survey, what spawned a change in conversation? What is the motivation now to share and write processes? How was the "significant breakthrough" of changing the focus to organizational performance achieved? Is the focus really NOT about individuals and departments now?

Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland's picture
Holly Lyke-Ho-Gland's picture

Early in the process design stage Elevations used a series of workshops, for each process group, to document the flow of processes. Carla enlarged the PCF sections until they were wall-sized and used post-it notes to identify the “state” of each process based on the survey results. The color of the post-it notes corresponded to the rating system used in the survey, so employees could see the process gaps. This was the first aha moment because it got employees to really see where the gaps were but it also it helped them realize how all the processes were linked and understand how one group’s outputs are another’s inputs.

Another key driver was the use of early adopters, who just got the purpose of the endeavor.  Elevations started leveraging them as advocates who are grassroots process authorities who have been given additional training on the BPM tools and processes. These advocates helped train employees in the business and give them the tools they needed to take on responsibility for process design.