4.2. 2. Weld Business Success to Program Success
Jim Ditmore is Chief Technology Officer for Wachovia Banks, one of the nation's largest financial institutions. His offices in Charlotte, North Carolina, overlook a series of rooftops, all from fellow bank corporations. He has led strategic initiatives at a host of major companies and is one of the most experienced and knowledgeable process professionals I have ever worked with. Jim understands the discipline from the floor of implementation to the walls of strategic design. And one of the fundamentals he stresses when it comes to sustained process improvement is the importance of welding the performance of the business to the use of the program.
He tells one story about implementing a process program for one of the very first online banks. His process manager was having a hard time enforcing the program she had built. She had built a good program. It was not too heavy. It fit the culture well. The issue was simply one of motivation. There was no real active resistance, but the various groups within the bank that should have been adopting the program were slow to do so. Other priorities always seemed to take precedence. The line managers did not seem too concerned about this as long as the regular work was getting done in a reasonable amount of time. And no one was complaining too loudly.
Jim's architectI'll call her Katewas frustrated because she was in many ways accountable for the success of the program. But she felt that her powers as a lateral enforcer were not enough to make people notice. She wanted Jim to step in with a bigger stick.
But Jim took a different approach. I have since borrowed it from him, and it seems to work pretty well wherever I am able to employ it. Jim told Kate not to worry. She shouldn't feel frustrated at the slow pace of adoption. He would soon drive the demand to her.
Jim used his position as a C-level executive to reshape the organization's view of process and its role within the business. He met with the various representatives of IT management and instituted a new series of performance reports, reports that were based on measures of general IT performance. The reports would be assembled every week and presented to the CEO. The trends in the reports would be discussed with the CEO and with the board of directors when needed.
What Jim knew (because he had helped position it) was that Kate's process program directly addressed the performance of the organization along the exact lines that were being measured. From that point on, when IT management got together and the reports were distributed, here is what people began to see. Some of the groups were doing well. Their numbers looked good. Some other groups were not doing so well. Their numbers were not impressive. Everyone knew this data was going to the top of the company and that the top was paying attention to it. Jim made sure of that. And so what happened in a relatively short span of time were three things in pretty quick succession.
First, management became motivated to find out what they had to do to get off the Bad list and onto the Good list. Kate was able to assure them that she had some new procedures and practices that were designed to do just that. Management went to their people and told them to work with Kate to get this new stuff in place. To them it wasn't about process improvement at all; it was about the perception of performance. Jim had in fact driven demand to Kate.
Next, when the weaker groups began to appear stronger on the numbers reports, the stronger groups wanted a way to get back out front. And so they began to go to Kate to add some extra capabilities into their toolkits. Within a span of time, adoption was not the issue. A sense of competitive accomplishment had been introduced among the groups, and because of the measures, the group had a way to regularly look at who was taking the lead and who might be falling behind.
The last thing that happened in this stream was that executive managementthe CEO and the boardbegan to appreciate in their own way the process program Jim and Kate were supporting. The simple fact that they were able to see in a single metrics report a picture of performance over time (and in this case it was a very positive performance trend) caused them to want more. They began to not only rely on the program and on the data it helped generate, but they began to query about new ways it could help the organization, new ways it could reveal opportunities for improvement and at the same time work to document success.
Jim's strategy here was very astute. He knew the benefits of linking business success to process success. If you can do that for your management as well as your work force, you'll find that they will back the program once they begin to see the benefits it brings.