Time for High Value Process Excellence

Process is fundamental to the way we work and yet for too long it’s been confined to specialist quality or process improvement departments. Isn’t it time that process played a more prominent role in the boardroom?

That seems to be happening in certain pockets of the industry as Xerox Business Services has appointed Gregory North as its Chief Process Officer. In this PEX Network interview, North describes the new role as well how process excellence needs to move beyond the jargon and speak the language of business to truly drive results.  

The excerpt of the interview is below:


PEX Network: We’ve spoken, you and I, over the past couple of years about, say, shifting approaches to process excellence. Do you think that companies are changing the ways, more in general, on how they view process?

Gregory North: I would say, as I did a moment ago, that this is an evolving skill set; an evolving orientation for companies. It’s the classic, try something; if it doesn’t work, try something else.

Over time, I think companies have tried a lot of different things. For instance, every individual in the whole company has to be focused on quality and process. That was TQM [Total Quality Management]. They’ve tried having a set of dedicated professionals who know more about process and qualities and called that Lean Six Sigma. Then they’ve tried taking and focusing on things like process design management and business architecture. They do that in order to transform the most critical processes in a business.

From my perspective, the false choice between those three is what is holding us back. You have to have a continuous improvement environment on your floor where all your employees are working every day to solve customer challenges, and you do not want them to have to step back and say, wow, I’ve got a process I need to improve. I’d better call the black belt.

You don’t want your black belts working on things that ultimately could be solved on the shop floor. You want them thinking more about end to end processes, which, if you bring them in, they can help sew together and, effectively, cross silos, both inside and outside your company’s ecosystem.

Finally you want business leaders who are thinking about their processes and what they have to do to do better as leaders. How to develop and deploy a strategy. How to develop and deploy talent. How to develop and deploy value in their business as they migrate from a lower margin to a higher margin offering, for example.

These are all processes, just like anything else. So if you can get away from which one of those three is right, and focus on the fact that great companies have to be good at all those things, then I think you begin to see the lens of process excellence in the 21st century, which is you’ve got to fire on all of those segments in order to be effective.


Read the full interview with Gregory North here