4.3. 3. Participate
You'll see a theme repeated throughout this book. It's valuable to those just starting down the path of process improvement. That is the theme of executive commitment: dedicated and focused executive commitment is essential to the success of any process initiativein fact, to any business initiative.
When you create a process program, you are not creating an end product. You are setting down the first stone in what will eventually (hopefully) stretch into a well-worn path. But, of course, the stone is not the path, and all the good work of your process team has not laid the brush aside. It has delivered a direction and a map. Now the real test comes.
There's always a strong leadership presence in successful process programs: the champions, the visionaries, the true believers. Maybe those labels are too strong to apply to many process initiatives. But you probably understand the directive behind them: make executive commitment a visible thing. To do that, it is essential to participate in the life of the program. Management must lead the way.
4.3.1. Appear in the Valley
It's no doubt easy sometimes to look down on company operations from high up. The view from there can often appear placid, orderly. And there's an argument to be made that heavy executive management across all layers of an organization might not be a good thing. After all, if you hire competent people, you should probably get out of their way and let them do their jobs. That's my philosophy, too. But it's a general philosophy, good for routines that have stabilized
But for new or emerging process programs, the stability is usually not there, at least not in most companies. In these situations, visible executive commitment and support become especially important.
By the term "appear in the valley," I mean to suggest that management appear as a guide. They are not there to audit, or to check up on people, or to peer over shoulders; they show up to show your people that they are interested, that they want to see results, that the company will be patient, as long as progress is being made. And also that the company will be tolerant when missteps are made, that those kinds of trials will no doubt arise, but that they are OK as long as they are indicators that people are moving into the program.
4.3.2. Be Content with Commitment Equal to Yours
The last thought here on the subject of participation is the level of commitment you should expect from your people as your program becomes a part of the way you do business. The level of commitment you showopenly and visibly in the organizationis the level of commitment you can predict will permeate through your process program.
You probably know this already. Think of your management partners: will they share this commitment with you? This form of on-floor encouragement does not require an inordinate amount of attention. If you've designed the process program so that it fits the organization well, then it shouldn't be a struggle to fit it into daily and routine business activities. But especially at the outset, the program will be new to people, maybe a little strange or a little daunting. If senior management can be seen as imminently interested in how people are adjusting to it and strongly committed to seeing it succeed for the organization, then that attitude will go a long way to ensuring adoption, attenuation, and integration into work group cultures.