And that was it. You just finished the exit interview with your best process owner on the team. She is going to be missed. After five years of hard, dedicated and passionate work, she had brought your organization to a level that seemed impossible at first. And now, with all that experience under her belt, she started her own consulting business to help others. Possibly even your competitors.
What’s next? Who is going to replace her? For weeks, you have been asking this yourself. There is nobody on your team who can fill her shoes. And hiring someone will be a lengthy process combined with a drawn out learning curve. Can you even afford hiring someone like her?
Maybe you should ask yourself: “How did I get myself into this pickle?”…
All too often I am experiencing that organizations invest in bringing process and service owners up to speed and to a desired level, but little or no attention is given to succession planning. Or, at the very least, nobody is coached or mentored to be second-in-line to take over when or if needed.
Not to mention, a career path is put in place for service-management-enthusiasts to become a successful process owner or service owner.
In other words, yet again, the organization is dependent on good people. Possibly even another hero. Or, to make matters worse, another ego. So what happened with a lesser dependency on these heroes in your organization when adopting service management best practices? Not that much, I guess…
What is the reason for this? Is it because the service management industry is still too young? Or is it an issue that is independent of the industry? Is it a leadership issue? Or has Human Resources not been able to catch up on this need? Maybe it is a little bit of everything, and more?
No matter the reason, it is not what it should be. A sustainable (service-oriented) organization minimizes the single points of failures and builds in redundancies, has backup plans, has career plans and succession plans. And even when your organization performs poor in this area, you as the process owner make sure that your process is successful even without your presence.
In essence, this should be the duty of every team member, in particular when you hold a (service) management position. As Jim Collins in “Good to Great” taught us, you are not a genius with a thousand helpers; you should have the right people on the bus.
How do you determine who could be a good process owner? Subject matter expertise helps, but this is certainly not the only criteria to look for. For example, a Change Manager, the role owning the Change Management process, cannot be a subject matter expert in every area of the (IT) organization. That’s not a realistic expectation.
The lists below might be helpful when looking for the next process owner, or for when grooming one. Please note that I do not pretend to be complete. Specific circumstances in your organization may require additional character traits. For example, are you a start-up or a multi-billion dollar dynasty?
The list below has some general character traits to consider:
1. Having a passion for service management and for a particular process is good start;
2. Being service-minded, customer-focused, and goal-oriented, are good qualities to have;
3. Being able to see the bigger picture, or being a generalist, is also preferable;
4. Being trustworthy, reliable, humble and dependable is important;
5. Being a team players who, at the same time, can lead and steer the organization towards agreed results through process-related contributions, is crucial;
6. Having qualities including being invested, proactive, resourceful, accurate and creative play your advantage;
7. And, as always, being a good communicator and a role model is key
Examples of desirable process owner specific character traits are:
1. Being able to analyze as-is (people-process-technology) situations based on performing process data and information analysis;
2. Being able to use as-is process analysis results to design and incrementally build an improved and well-rounded to-be process environment;
3. Being detail-oriented when designing, implementing, reviewing and improving process components is a must for credibility reasons;
4. Being open for constructive feedback along the way is critical as the perfect answer to process improvement challenges does not exist;
5. Having the capability to act as a (process-improvement-culture) change agent with a can-do mentality and with didactical, marketing and sales skills
6. Having the ability to seek for and implement process automation that goes beyond the integrated out-of-the-box service management solution
Again, I am not pretending to be complete here. I encourage every reader of this blog to include in the comment section the character traits that you feel that should be added to these lists.
And to put things in perspective, please do not start looking for an individual who possesses all these traits. You may never find this person. Select those traits that are important to your organization and then start looking. And if a trait needs some grooming, put a training, education, coaching plan together and execute it.
I am going to finish this article with stating that every process owner is in essence a change agent; someone who contributes to changing the culture of an organization in such a way that it will be able to achieve the desired results. According to Roger Connors and Tom Smith, the authors of the bestseller “Change the Culture, Change the Game”, a change agent is someone who is able to do the following with best practices:
1. Make them real
2. Makes them applicable to your audience
3. Makes them simple and repeatable
4. Makes them convincing
5. Makes them a dialog
How about searching for or developing these talents of your process owner (to-be)? Talent and service management can be a perfect pair. A process owner who, during a job interview, can pull examples from past experience making best practices real, applicable, simple and repeatable, convincing and making them a dialog, might have a heads-up over other candidates. I encourage you to incorporate these questions in your next job interview…