The APQC Blog

The Myriad of Ways We Challenge the As Is

In early October process and performance management professionals came together for APQC’s first ever, three-day virtual summit. This year’s event—Challenging the As Is—focused on the myriad of ways that process and performance professionals move beyond the status quo.

The idea of challenging the as-is, is at the heart of process and performance teams everywhere. It’s what we do in our roles of operational excellence and continuous improvement. However, its also an imperative that we practice what we preach. This requires taking a hard look at our programs to ensure they are still fit for purpose. Finally, challenging the as-is requires an array of methodologies, capabilities, and even technologies for our toolkit; ensuring we apply the “right” tool for the project. 

Speakers throughout the summit built on these themes of improvement, efficacy, and a robust toolkit to make excellence happen. 

Process improvement is the core of what process and performance management teams provide.
Improvement comes in two basic forms: continuous and breakthrough. Continuous improvement is a systematic effort to tweak and fine tune how processes are executed. But there are times when it becomes necessary to make a significant change to a process. Regardless of the scope of the improvement, organizations need a systematic approach to finding improvement opportunities both big and small. 

For example, audits provide a method for ongoing process performance monitoring and play an important role in ongoing improvement efforts. Mohit Mathur, associate vice president at Sterlite Technologies Ltd, discussed a seven-pillar approach for redesigning process audits to drive improvements at the strategic level. 

It’s also vital that we lead by example and practice what we preach. This means we can’t grow complacent and should also evaluate the effectiveness of our programs and adjust them to meet the maturing needs of the organization. 

Wes Ralph with Collins Aerospace shared how the organization simplified its process management approach to increase employee empowerment and engagement. At the conclusion of the session, Ralph asked attendees to identify three things they could simplify at their organizations. The overwhelming number and variety of responses to this question is best encapsulated by one attendee’s answer: “Nearly everything.” 

Christa Bol and Matt Bouton from UPS shared how they engaged the entire organization in process management and streamlined its process methodology, introduced new modeling tools, and simplified process language to make process work more accessible for employees.

One of the keys to successful improvement work is selecting the right tools for the job. When organizations try to solve problems, they get attached to a single methodology or technology solution.  Which often results in leading the project with a specific solution rather than delving into the root cause of the problem. 

That’s why every process person must create a toolkit with an array of methodologies, technologies, and techniques. As part of the summit, business process experts engaged in an interactive panel discussion about the tools they use to break down barriers and enable the business to succeed. The tools included: 

  • Process repository— to store process information in a dynamic, easy to reuse, and consistent format. “By having a shared process repository, we could have all our processes available for the entire organization, no matter where you are working and even in a virtual environment,” said Alvarado.
  • A-3— is a step-by-step template for applying plan-do-check-act, also known as PDCA or the Deming cycle. The name comes from the standard international paper size A-3, which is 11” x 17”—this provides just enough space to condense information onto a single page.
  • Process-based risk analysis—a worksheet which guides organizations through the process of identifying the likelihood and impact of individual risks, which can then be aggregated into an overall severity score. Risk severity scores can then be plotted on a chart to determine focus areas.
  • Change management—the key to creating a process-focused organization. There are three key tools for effective change management: current state assessments or change readiness assessment, change journey action plans, and systems thinking. 

There number of available process management and improvement tools is vast. However, the key is finding which ones are a best fit for your program’s purpose and the array of projects it tackles. 

Though methodologies and tools are part of an effective toolkit, organizations also need to ensure they have the capabilities necessary for resiliency. Hence, Lauren Trees and I discussed six evolving and enduring capabilities that help organizations meet the current moment and build for the long-term. 

  1. Flexibility—the ability to rapidly shift strategy or execution to meet evolving circumstances and opportunities. 
  2. Innovation—the creation and application of ideas that add value to the organization’s internal and external customers. 
  3. Change management—the ability to focus on people and take them along as participants for the change journey. 
  4. Communications—the sharing of information to support the organization’s mission, strategy, and operations. 
  5.  Risk management—the process of monitoring and reporting on risks as well as prioritizing, developing, and implementing mitigation plans. 
  6. Technology fluency—the ability to assess a situation and determine when, where, and how technology should be applied. 

While not every organization needs to be a top performer in all six capabilities, each provides intrinsic value to ensure resiliency.

This is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg of how the speakers at this year’s summit challenge the as-is. Learn more about the knowledge shared at the summit by reviewing the following APQC collections:

For more process and performance management research and insights, follow me on twitter at @hlykehogland or connect with me on LinkedIn.