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© 2024 N. Dean Meyer and Associates Inc.
Excerpt from www.NDMA.COM, © 2024 N. Dean Meyer and Associates Inc.

Analysis: Process Owners

giving one person power over another's processes is doomed to fail

by N. Dean Meyer

[excerpt from the book, Principle-based Organizational Structure]

At the suggestion of process-improvement consultants, a CIO appointed a few "process owners." Each was assigned a process that engaged people from various parts of the organization in producing a specific service.

These process owners had authority over those processes. Sure, they were collaborative and involved stakeholders in designing and implementing new processes. But they were not process facilitators who served others by bringing teams to consensus on how they'll work together. Their job was to implement processes, and they had the final say.

Separation of Authority and Accountability

Despite their authority to decide processes, these process owners didn't have matching accountability for the effectiveness of those processes -- that is, they weren't always the ones accountable for delivering those services.

While process owners had authority without accountability, the reverse was true of everybody else. They were accountable for the delivery of services; but they didn't have the power to determine the processes they used to do their jobs.

If these service-delivery groups failed, there was no way to know whether it was due to their own poor performance, or due to a bad process. Nonetheless, they took the blame.

Process owners implemented processes. In fact, they implemented detailed, rigorous processes. They succeeded at their mission. But the organization became bureaucratic, slow, and inflexible as a result. This structure violated the Golden Rule.

Bottom Line

Refining an organization's processes is important. But it does not justify disempowering those who deliver the results of the those processes.

A better answer is to make everybody accountable for results and empowered to decide their own processes. Then, a process facilitator can serve these empowered entrepreneurs with industry best practices and the facilitation of cross-boundary process redesign initiatives.


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