As I’ve said many times before, standout brilliant leaders think more about execution than the contents of the plan itself.
They spend endless hours and days figuring out how the organization’s business plan can be flawlessly implemented.
They believe execution precision is a key competitive advantage, whereas most other organizations focus on getting their strategy ‘perfect’ and run out of gas when it comes time to determine their execution fundamentals.
They are the Strategy Hawk in the organization who lives and dies by how the strategy is progressed and how results are achieved.
One trait that these execution leaders possess rarely gets attention is their process-thinking ability.
Audacious leaders are extremely competent process thinkers.
Why is process thinking important?
Because results are always produced by people working horizontally ACROSS the organization rather than vertically within it.
Marketing may create an unbelievable small business value package solution, but if it’s not presented to the target customer in the right way OR if there’s no inventory OR if it’s not delivered seamlessly, OR if it doesn’t work as promised, sales targets are missed and the package dies on the vine.
So, if you’re the VP Marketing, you might be tempted to judge your worth in terms of the creative products your team comes up with or the added features that add value to your current product line.
But if you’re serious about the performance of the organization and not just marketing, you must consider the complete go-to-market performance of marketing’s work as a fundamental part of your role.
Silos don’t deliver stuff to customers, cross functional teams do.
Process-thinking leaders are exceptional at performing these tasks:
#1. Process definition — They define the one or two key processes in the organization that determine the sales success of their products and services.
The idea is to define the processes that hold the key to delivering a product to market and therefore are critical for revenue generation.
#2. Process ownership — They assume ownership of the key processes they’ve defined, filling a void that exists in every organization.
Who owns the product delivery process in an organization? Who is that single person who should be held accountable for the process outcome and overall performance?
The truth of the matter is that in most organizations—I can’t think of ONE exception—a process is never owned by a single function because it involves employees of several separate functions.
The process-thinking leader steps up to take ownership of the processes critical to their performance.
As VP marketing, I assumed the Owner role of the installation process for one of our data services because the process was essential to my revenue line and because there were performance issues with getting the service to our customers quickly and seamlessly.
No one else wanted the messy task so my executive colleagues were happy to let me take on the work to assemble a high quality team representing every piece of the process puzzle.
#3. Process mapping — They map out these processes to clearly understand how the current process works with particular emphasis on the number of hand-offs and on the complexity of the work that is performed in each node in the process.
In the marketing case, for example, the VP might define the product configuration process—preparing the software for the small business product—as key to sales, and HOW configuration is presently done and what the work looks like in terms of its complexity.
Mapping is a revealing piece of work, because it shows the potential break points where things could go terribly wrong and negatively impact go-to-market performance in terms of time and quality.
Too many nodes—handoffs—in the process impacts product delivery time to the customer, and complicated work at various nodes could cause work errors.
#4. Process re-engineering — They take the lead in making the processes they define more effective—producing exactly what is required— and efficient—supplying it when the customer wants it.
Process-thinking leaders micromanage the processes that matter to them; they assume the responsibility to do so.
They transform ‘as-is’ process maps into ‘new state’ processes by simplifying the process—reducing the number of hand-off points—and the work done at each process node.
And these re-engineering leaders are different from others who have been schooled in the science of process management. They engage their customers in the design of the new process, believing that the optimum system is one that enables customer engagement not controls it.
#5. Objectives and measurement — They set end-to-end objectives for each process they manage in terms of time and result.
The delivery process for our small business package, for example, might be tagged with the objective of having the product in the customer’s hands 24 hours after the order has been placed.
In addition, an objective is set for each component of the process—order received, order passed to configuration team, configuration done, delivery team advised—adding up to the overall 24 hour objective which has been ‘approved’ by the customer.
Finally, measurement systems are designed and put in place for the Owner’s constant scrutiny and follow up.
Leaders who are truly dedicated to strategy execution need to own the key processes that influence their results.
They need to step up and assume the responsibility even though the process owner function is not formally part of their job description—the VP marketing, for example, doesn’t have product delivery process ownership anywhere in the document that defines their role in the organization.
Yet if the leader wants better results, they have to get involved and follow the 5 simple steps I’ve outlined in this piece.
Own the process—engage the customer—design a new one—measure the hell out of it—keep tweaking it—watch your performance soar.