Section 3.10. Institutionalization

3.10. Institutionalization

A final consideration to think through for your process program is institutionalization. Institutionalization is a word you'll encounter a lot in the field of process improvement. The word implies a way of conduct that becomes firmly ingrained in the culture of the organization. Institutionalization is the hallmark of organizational commitment. It is the ultimate goal of any quality management program.

Naturally, institutionalization takes time. It is not an automatic process. And it can be a temptation, sometimes after a series of initial successes, to announce "mission accomplished." A quality program, however, needs the continued and ongoing focus of management. It should be seen as one of the foundations on which the company operates.

Institutionalization may be the hardest implementation step to accomplish, simply because it does take time and there's no checkered flag to let you know when you've gotten there. But once you've achieved this mark, your program will be integrated within the whole organization, able to function at peak efficiency.

It's your people who will accomplish the work of institutionalization. And in the next chapter, we'll look at some techniques and tips you can use to support your process program and to help it take hold in your organization. But the focus shouldn't veer too far from your people.

In fact, you might want to take a look at who you'll be turning the program over to once you have it designed, in place, and ready to use. More than likely, it will be one or more managers in the organization. The approach used to nurture the program once it's been deployed will have a large impact on how well and how soon the program becomes institutionalized.

Let's look at five general categories of the kinds of managers usually called on to institutionalize a process program.

3.10.1. The Blind Victor

This type of person represents the least effective way to institutionalize a process program. We've probably all seen examples of the Blind Victor through the course of our careers. These types are initiative-driven. They need a specific project with a specific shape to it in order to feel that they are being productive. They are called "blind" because they cannot see beyond the initiative. To them, the project is everything. They are tactical, go-do-it types. They are not as good at strategic thinking or long-term forecasting. And they are called "victors" because their myopia causes them to declare victory as soon as the final project deliverable materializes. Blind Victors often lack the ability to appreciate the depth of organizational change, are unable to appreciate the need to shore up an initiative with support, or simply lack the capability to appreciate the multifaceted aspects of change.

Process improvement programs have had to suffer through more than a few Blind Victors. These folks will devote their time and energiesand that of their staffsto thinking through, creating, and shaping a process program. And what they end up with may in fact be very good. But that's when the Blind Victor declares victory. Everybody shakes one another's hand and then goes off looking for the next problem to solve. Very little thought or commitment is given to the issue of implementation, long-term support, or institutionalization.

As a result, the classic failure of process programs typically occurs: the program, probably collected together as a series of binders, is placed on a shelf, consigned to gathering dust. The work groups may sigh and roll their eyes, another of management's brilliant ideas unrealized. And work goes on as usual, the only difference being that now the idea of process improvement may very well have become something of a company joke.

Blind Victors can be effective at program creation, but don't count on them to follow through with implementation. Here are some tips:

  • Work to provide the organization with implementation support.

  • Account for active and continued management participation.

  • Consider the appointment of dedicated implementers or process program owners.

3.10.2. The Thankful Patron

A rung up from the Blind Victor is the Thankful Patron. Often you'll these two working together (or at least working in sequence). The Blind Victor will slap the solution in place and then leave the Thankful Patron to make it materialize. The problem with Thankful Patrons is that they have not been involved in creating the process program. They may not even have that much of a handle on what the program's been designed to do. They may manage the group that's supposed to use it, but that's about as much as they know.

Thankful Patrons know they lack the knowledge to push the program through. But, already busy in their "real" jobs, they usually feel too pressured to take time to acquire the needed information. As a result, they rely on their working teams to adopt and use the program in an appropriate manner. And because they aren't equipped to link the program to their business operations, they tend to view the processes as supplementary activities, tasks that aren'twhen it comes down to itabsolutely necessary to operations. The process program becomes a "nice to have," and Thankful Patrons are disinclined to force it on anyone. They don't want to rock the boat.

Thankful Patrons are grateful that anybody uses any part of the program at all. If they see even a bit of it in use, they consider that to be successful enough.

Process programs under the care of Thankful Patrons may be tinkered with, tried out, or fiddled with. But in the end, they are neither promoted, managed, or monitored. And when their elements begin to disappear from the environment, the common excuse cited is that the program must not have fit in well. If it had, the convenient thinking goes, it would have been successful.

Thankful Patrons may need education and training sessions to help them feel comfortable with the program their people will be using. Here are some tips:

  • Consider working with them to develop a general implementation plan that will incorporate new activities with existing activities.

  • Set concrete yet achievable implementation and adoption objectives.

3.10.3. The Gentle Shepherd

Now we begin to step into the realm of program commitment. The popular view of shepherds is that they take care of sheep. But they really don't take care of sheep. The sheep pretty much take care of themselves. They know when to eat, when to sleep, and so on. Shepherds herd sheep. They walk them to the fields, prod them back to the pens, and keep the wolves at bay.

In process program management, Gentle Shepherds take on pretty much the same role. Shepherding is not a fast-paced business. They work to slowly move their groups into process adoption, taking on a little at a time. Like Thankful Patrons, Gentle Shepherds usually don't like to rock the boat. They view their role as protecting their people, taking care of them. They are insulators.

At the same time, Gentle Shepherds are pretty willing to take on the new ways of the process program. They just want the integration to go as smoothly as possible, and because their emphasis is on smoothness, they usually move slowly. There are lots of people I know who promote the Gentle Shepherd as the most effective of all these implementation types. When it comes to learning and absorbing information, and to employing new job techniques, this approach of slow and steady can work very well. However, nice as that maybe from a social systems perspective, it might not work well for the organization. If we assume that the process program was designed and built to address specific business needs, then its adoption and full use might not be best left to personal preference. The slow way might work well for some people, but it might not be the best way for the business. Persistent problems might remain too persistent to long.

Gentle Shepherds will rarely abandon the process program or let it sit unattended. But they may not come with the natural inclination or gumption that can prove handy to bringing it into the business and making it a part of operations in a way that quickly realizes its designed benefits.

Here are some tips:

  • Provide a strategic approach that promotes the role of the program with its importance.

  • Support institutionalization with a schedule to guide implementation activities.

  • Consider using process auditors from your process team to provide ongoing coaching and mentoring for the working groups.

3.10.4. The Personal Trainer

Personal Trainers can be a great process program asset. They are like a coach and a mentor rolled into one, with a few extra characteristics. They want to be well versed in process, they want to know the ins and outs of your process program, and they want to know the business activities that the working groups will engage in. All of that makes for a great asset, especially when you consider that Trainers typically work side by side with the work teams. They not only provide advice, support, and guidance, they can also help show the teams how to do things in the new way.

The trick to Personal Trainers is finding them. It's not always easy to hire them from the outside because chances are they will not know your process program and may not know the particulars about how the work teams do their jobs. And it's not always easy to find them on the inside either: the folks you already work with will either be strong in current business practices or strong in your processes, but not often both. Or not often inclined to both.

A viable option is to consciously take one or more members from your identified work teams and integrate them early on into your process team. That way, you take business knowledge and shape it with process knowledge. Those folks, when chosen well, will then make very good personal trainers. Of course, I'm implying here that you have the luxury of pulling someone off one team, training them for what might be an extended period in another discipline, and then putting them back. As a technique, it's very effective, but it may not be very practical for you or your organization.

Another consideration is one of authority. If you have a solid, strong manager looking over the work group, then you won't have much of a problem. But if not, you might find that the expertise and dynamics of a good Personal Trainer can begin to overshadow the influence of the manager. The people in the work groups may begin to look to the Trainers for business solutions and guidance over the manager. And there is the potential that this may cause perception problemsor even real problemsover time. If you are able to go the route of Personal Trainers, you'll probably have to take time to match as carefully as you can the Trainers to the managers, or find people who can fill both roles.

Developing Personal Trainers takes commitment, time, and money, and the focused allocation of resources to get the teams into shape process-wise.

Here are some tips:

  • Plan to develop internal Personal Trainers early on in your program.

  • Set aside resources (time and money) to develop your Trainers, ensuring that job duties are adequately accounted for and covered.

  • Create job descriptions that detail how Trainers and managers can interface effectively to accomplish a common purpose.

3.10.5. The Drill Sergeant

Personal Trainers tend to have a personal association with the groups they work with in an organization. They may even work side by side with the people, showing them the way, rooting them on. Drill Sergeants are a different type. They are usually brought inor appointedwhen management notices the potential for significant resistance to process adoption or requires that adoption be condensed into a tight time frame.

Like the Trainers, the Drill Sergeants know process and the organization's process program, but they don't necessarily have to know the business practices, and there's probably no way they're going to pitch in and help. These guys are here to push the program through, to set the performance bar and then train the people to make that bar. They'll arrive on the scene with special blessings from management. There will be no question from anyone as to whether it's their way or the highway.

Views from the Top


"Business success in any form requires commitment, a belief in what you're doing, confidence that you know how to get there. Effective process management requires the same thing. Any talented group can create a sound process program. But without the commitment to seeing it through, the program will pay few dividends."

William H. Wiltshire, CIO, The Ballston Group

"Commitment to quality is not a project or a one time event. It does not have start and end dates. It needs to be a way of doing business for an organization, and so it's an ongoing, evolving journey. As such, the quality attitude in an organization is just as important as the quality program, maybe more so. The cultural commitment to becoming a better, more efficient workplace is vital to the path of process improvement in an organization."

Guy Bevente, AVP, Information Technology National Data, SBC

Drill Sergeants typically take on an implementation with a three-prong approach: supply, discipline, and motivation.

You can't train anyone without the right supplies, and so Sergeants are going to make sure that everything necessary to make the process program run smoothly is in place. That includes good documentation, forms, guidelines, preparatory training, and so on. If the team is short on supplies, you (as CO in this analogy) will have to make sure supplies are provisioned. If you can accommodate that, great. If not, you might consider postponing rollout until the supply chain is in place.

Next is discipline. Drill Sergeants are going to select a targeted group, and for a set period of time, they are going to work the process program through that business unit, looking over the shoulders of the working teams until the teams demonstrate that they have the right practices down pat. If things go smoothly, the Sergeants won't interfere. If there's fumbling or doubt or lack of effort, they'll be on top of it.

Finally there is motivation. Here, that's probably best seen as "incentive." Business often works well when performance is tied to a series of concrete objectives. Follow the program, and Drill Sergeants have the authority to send rewards your way. Ignore it, and they have the authority to remind you that, while you might not be right for this IT shop, there are no doubt plenty of opportunities for a person like you in any of the food service industries.

All of this makes the role of the Drill Sergeant somewhat prone to complexity. It is probably best to employ that role only when it is truly necessary, when a core factor of your business depends on successful program adoption or when process program underperformance might reflect so poorly on the company that its long-term value may fall into question.

You'll need to give Drill Sergeants lots of responsibility, but remember, with that comes authority. Be prepared to cede it. Here are some tips:

  • Give them the time they need to shape up their troops. And make sure that line management is aware of this focus.

  • Ensure that the Sergeants don't become too carried away with their charge.

  • Feel free to make it clear that the Sergeants report up the chain, too, and so results are in the line in which company goals are expected.

3.10.6. The Assassin

The job of the Assassin is very clear: achieve commitment to the process program. By any means necessary. Failure is not an option. Compromise is for wimps. Sure, there are going to be casualties, but this is business, not recess, so get over it.

When the Assassins appear, their first move is going to be to confirm that the program really is in place: that the pieces are all there and it's ready to go. If not, you've brought them in too early, and that's no good for Assassins. They're not afraid of command and they're not afraid of carnage, but even Assassins appreciate that without a workable endgame, command and carnagefun though they might bedon't get anyone anywhere by themselves.

When they're sure the program's there, the Assassins step in and set the performance bar, right at the level they want it to be. And they make sure this level is obvious to everyone, that there are no questions about it. Assassins leave no room for excuses. And when they're sure that that's understood, they start the clock ticking. From this moment, the business is going to conduct business following the business processes. Period.

And then the Assassins will leave you alone, for a while. But they're not really gone. They're coming back. Management has given them carte blanche, and pretty soon they'll be wheeling that carte down your hallway.

They begin performing process audits. Everywhere. Regularly. And when they find anything or anyone out of step, their idea of process improvement is very simple: you're out of step; you've got one chance to get back in step and stay in step.

Meanwhile, the Assassins are running help-wanted ads all over the place, for just about any job position touched by the process program. There's a common phrase in all these postings: "Must work well in a process-managed environment."

The Assassins were hired to bring order, and so they move through the branches of the process program and look at compliance, and thenmethodically, with a portfolio full of resumesthey weed out the cowboys, the know-it-alls, the firemen, the martyrs, the loners, the prima donnas, and the artistes.

You know Sandra, that renegade designer who built the search engine that handles a million hits a minute? History. Key card blanked. And Eric, the programmer with the attitude? His lunch may be at his desk, but he's not. And your manager, Steven? You remember that innovative plan he was talking about yesterday? Forget about it.

The Assassins replace them all with fresh talent, talent that comes onboard ready to embrace process, ready to honor the company's program, ready to do things the company way.

Here's a tip: Do notunder any circumstanceget in an Assassin's way.

3.10.7. The Element of Change

The roles above cover a range of process management types that you'll typically find in an organization. Most of them can help you implement your process program. How you do it will depend on the fit between their style and your needs.

But remember that you should probably not leave the picture. You should remain an important part of the success equation. And so for this reason, it's important to appreciate an additional characteristic of your process program, and that is change.

You are changing how work groups work. You are giving them new references, new expectations. And as is probably true of many things, change can be uncomfortable. It can be difficult. That's why you'll need to monitor the progress of your program over time. As it moves closer and closer to the people who will ultimately be working through it, you should continue to consider the best way to introduce change into the organization.

Effective change management is an important ingredient to establishing any process program.

Process Improvement Essentials
Process Improvement Essentials: CMMI, Six SIGMA, and ISO 9001
ISBN: 0596102178
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 116

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