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IATF 16949:2016 Process owner

by Pretesh Biswas, APB Consultant

Process Owner is a person who has the ultimate responsibility for the performance of a process in realizing its objectives measured by key process indicators, and has the authority and ability to make necessary changes. A Process Owner is the person immediately accountable for creating, sustaining, and improving a particular process, as well as, being responsible for the outcomes of the process. A process owner is responsible for managing and overseeing the objectives and performance of a process through Key Performance Indicators (KPI). A process owner has the authority to make required changes related to achieving process objectives. A process owner is usually someone in management, not a team or committee. You need a single point of contact that is accountable for the overall process. Of course, the process owner may establish a process leader and team to help set up, operate, and support the process. Process owner responsibilities include:

  • Developing, deploying and managing process.
  • Explaining the purpose of a process
  • Ensuring process objectives
  • Determining, implementing and monitoring metrics( KPIs).
  • Improving process performance.
  • Ensuring quality reporting
  • Negotiating other process conflicts with respective process owners
  • Requesting required employee training
  • Reviewing, approving and communicating process changes and/or improvements
  • Driving towards system improvement goals.
  • Periodically presenting to Leadership the current state of improvement and opportunities.
  • Representing their co-workers during internal assessments and third party assessments
  • Advising management of process breaches or interruptions

IATF 16949:2016 5.1.1.3 Process owners

Top management must identify process owners who are given the responsible for managing the organization’s processes and related outputs. Process owners must understand their roles and should be competent to perform those roles.

To understand the term “process owner”, lets begin with the definition of a process. A Process is a set of interrelated or interacting activities which transforms inputs into outputs. The inputs of a process are the outputs from other processes. And, processes are planned and carried out under controlled conditions to add value. A Business Process consists of a series of tasks that receives a product or service (the input) from a supplier, adds value to that product or service through some transformation (the process), and then delivers a product or service of more value (output) to a customer. All business transactions take place through business processes that connect in a series to form Business Systems. We typically find somewhere between 8-16 business processes per Business System.

A Process Owner is a person who is given the responsibility and authority for managing a particular process. A Process Owner is designated by the Top Management to be responsible for the development, maintenance and enhancement of a specific process within the Management System. The Process Owner should have a clear understanding of and be closely involved with the assigned process on a daily basis. It is not necessary to select a supervisor for this role. For example, it can be beneficial to choose a subject matter expert. Most organizations find it useful to appoint individual process owners and define their responsibilities as ensuring the implementation, maintenance, and improvement of their specific process and its interactions with other processes. Process owners take an organization-wide view of their processes. They may not truly “own” the process in that some of the people who are involved in carrying out the process may not report to them. Instead, the owner is responsible for the design of the process, in other words, how it is carried out, how it interacts with other processes, and how it is measured. And, this responsibility is an ongoing task. Process owners have responsibility for their specific process, end-to-end. However, as stated earlier, this does not mean that all the staff involved in a process actually report to the process owner. Process owners usually have responsibility for most steps in the process and are able to influence other key areas outside their direct organizational control. The owner is assigned a specific process of the Management System and is responsible for documenting, developing and continuously improving the system. If an employee wishes to change the process, that person must work through the Process Owner. The owner also works actively and cooperatively with other linked process owners and subject matter experts to ensure enterprise wide continuity and optimization. Characteristics of a good Process Owner include:

  • Flexibility and good people skills. A good owner wants to share knowledge with others. It is important to be objective and open to suggestions for change.
  • Knowledge. The owner must have a strong understanding of the technical and practical aspects of the process and be able to explain and educate others.
  • Commitment. The owner must care and ensure that the process equals best practice.
  • Subject Matter expert: The owner is aware of the entire process in detail, including the inputs, output, raw materials and resources required, supplier requirements, customer requirements, Interactions with other processes and so on.
  • Owns the Process Performance: The person is responsible for the KPIs, Metrics, Cost incurred, Profit & Loss Account of the process, ups and downs of the performance, Corrective and Preventive actions to be taken, and changes to be done in the process.
  • Manages Training & Feedback: Responsible for the skills and knowledge of his team members and Leads. He specifies the skills to be looked at while hiring, identifies training needs, designs the training curriculum, assess and provide performance feedback for his team.
  • Manages the Team: The owner sets the goal for the team based on organization’s vision and goal, leads the team on adhering to the process and policies, encourages and motivates team for performance improvement, sets a career path for his team members.

Process owners can use the Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology to improve their processes: 1) planning what to do and how to do it, 2) doing what was planned, 3) checking the results to see if things happened according to plan, and 4) acting to improve the process the next cycle.

First and foremost, a process owner should be performing management duties, not clerical duties. At the highest level, management includes the planning, managing, and supporting of performance. A process owner should be doing all those activities for a given process. Planning includes setting performance goals for the process that are derived from organizational goals. The goals and support plans of the functional areas that participate in the process should cascade from those process goals. The process owner should be actively engaged with functional leaders to determine what kinds of resources are needed to enable and support the process and then to get commitments from the functions to provide those needed resources. This planning and resource allocation activity includes determining if the process is capable of meeting organizational goals, which means regularly assessing the condition of the process in question, and then initiating, sponsoring, and steering the improvement efforts that will make the process capable. But the role does not include doing the improvements – process ownership is not a role for the Black Belt specialist. As for ongoing management, the process owner role should include regular reviews of process performance and capability, and re-planning or adjusting as necessary. This monitoring of process performance should be driven by both process and function metrics that help the process owner and functional managers understand where performance deviations are occurring and agree on what the corrective actions should be. Process owners should ensure the following activities are completed:

  • Define a process that can be easily subjected to audit
  • Describe its links and interactions with other processes
  • Identify its documentation and training requirements
  • Issue and maintain any procedures and instructions
  • Implement processes consistent with the quality policy
  • Make available necessary resources and information
  • Operate and control an effective and efficient process
  • Resolve any problems and prevent their recurrence
  • Communicate process changes to the process users
  • Define and manage interfaces with other processes
  • Communicate input requirements to internal suppliers
  • Meet the output requirements of internal customers
  • Analyze performance data and set quality objectives
  • Track progress against process performance targets
  • Communicate with process users to identify issues
  • Identify risks and opportunities with current process
  • Investigate and propose process improvements

Role of the Process Owner

Creating effective process owners is never an easy task. It frequently means changing deeply ingrained management perspectives and behaviors. It also means spanning organizational silos and reorienting their management world view to focus on what links rather than differentiates functions. Companies often complicate this evolution because they fail to adopt incentives to motivate management behavior in line with the company’s new process orientation. Fundamental decisions about the roles and responsibilities of process owners, and who is best qualified to execute these roles, are paramount to building a strong process-based governance model. Clear process owner roles offer strong benefits to internal governance. They not only drive how decisions will be made in the future, but also identify and correct potential flaws in the company’s current governance. In many companies, the results include more effective and efficient cross-functional decision making, fewer cross-functional committees, more single-point ownership, and fewer informal channels to challenge and overturn decisions by escalating decisions to senior executives. What is the background required for successful process owners?  A process owner should—

  • Be an executive or senior manager who possesses organizational clout and can command, not just negotiate
  • Typically be the senior-most manager whose areas of responsibility directly intersect most with the process
  • Have a predisposition to oversee and work with the teams within the core business process and have major equity across the functions in the business process
  • Possess a broad understanding of the activities and challenges across the business process, with knowledge of upstream and downstream activities (e.g., suppliers and customers)
  • Have the ability to do what is best for the overall performance of the process and its customers, rather than for just the functions or operations falling within the process.
    In short, a process owner is not necessarily a subject matter or technical expert, a functional specialist, or an process specialist. The table below shows a typical job description for a process owner.

Some of the key attributes of individuals occupying this role are…

  1. Broad Experience: As a leader Process Owner have to understand how the pieces fit together. This knowledge is only truly gained through experience by bouncing about from role to role. This in turn requires that they be…
  2. Diggers: Individuals who get things done by going to ground zero, deciphering how things work, and possessing the understanding to make adjustments to capitalize on the situation. Process owners delve into the weeds and absorb the details, because they know this is where true change takes place. Mired in the details, they must also retain a…
  3. Customer Focus: Any innovation effort will be adjusted and redesigned as new information comes to light. On occasion the original strategy may be fatally flawed, requiring major readjustments before it delivers the intended outcome. To recalibrate strategies, key to this role is the ability for the business process owner to be customer focused. Again, this is a mindset best gained on the ground floor connecting with customers. Having such a background provides an awareness of the customer that cannot be taught as effectively in any other way. Dealing with a changing scope also requires process owners be…
  4. Level headed, pragmatic, and fact based: Changing situations allow ambitious individuals to capitalize on the chaos for their own personal gain. Doing so may well limit the benefits captured by an improvement effort. Process owners are the rudder of the organization’s change efforts and need to base improvements on facts and not emotions or political concerns. Bringing strategies in the face of adversity requires a certain level of…
  5. Natural Leadership: Some of the best candidates for business process owner are individuals who just seem to have the knack for getting things done. They plow through resistance and find a way to deliver when others fail. They are capable negotiators and excel at coordinating with other leaders.

How to utilize the strengths of a Process Owner:

    1. Train the Process owner: No employee will contribute for a new initiative without understanding the concepts, realizing the benefits of it. So, train the process owners, so that he realizes the need of it and thinks of the benefits he reaps on.
    2. Involve him from the early stage: He should be involved from the early stages of implementation. He should be a part of meetings discussing the planning of System implementation.
    3. Let him point out the pain area and Project opportunity: The Top Management should consult the process owner in identifying the pain areas and opportunities of improvement. Imposing ideas or projects will lead to resistance and he will tend to be defensive.
    4. Consult him in Team Member Selection: He knows the strengths and availability of his team members. Thus his opinion in team member selection will be beneficial for the process/project and least disturbance to the normal operations.
    5. Utilize his process knowledge: Involve him in the process of root cause analysis and solution identification. Without his support, the changed process cannot be implemented continuously.
    6. Credit him for the entire Success: Publicly appreciate his involvement and support in the success. Also his team members can be rewarded for their commitment and contribution. Top Management can be made as a bonus parameter to encourage the process owner and his team for effective participation.

 If your organization wishes to make process ownership work – and shift management attention to what really matters to customers – then consider the following pitfalls to avoid.

Pitfall #1: The drive on process ownership is NOT top down

If senior leadership are not actively driving process ownership, it’s not likely to result in a greater emphasis on improving the customer experience through enterprise wide process orientation.  In the absence of ongoing leadership support, few such efforts are sustainable.

Pitfall #2: The scope of responsibility of process owners is too narrow

Process ownership needs to have a certain degree of scope to be effective in driving process orientation. Too often, the scope of responsibility of process owners is defined within department boundaries. In this case there is frequently overlap and redundancy between what departmental management and process owners do.

Pitfall #3: The scope of responsibility of process owners is too wide

However, the remit cannot be so wide that the  challenges involved will be so great that the process owner is not likely to succeed. This is especially true if the scope of responsibility of process owners is defined in terms of mega processes such as order to cash, procure to pay, or hire to retire.

Pitfall #4: The job description is too complex

The role needs to be desirable and the responsibilities need to be achievable.  Only a handful of deliverables are needed, with a focus on improved performance through collaboration, customer experience and measurement.

Pitfall #5: If the emphasis on control trumps the focus on collaboration

The entire foundation of process ownership is based on collaboration – NOT control and, frankly, the concept of controlling processes is no longer popular with the rank and file in many organizations.

Conversely, there are at least 4 critical success factors involved with shifting management attention to what really matters to customers through process ownership.

Success factor #1: Give it a name that has clout

The label of process ownership needs to be changed to something that is more descriptive and desirable. Instead of “process owner for order to cash” consider “Director – Perfect Order Delivery.” Instead of “process owner – procure to pay” consider “Director – Request to Receipt.”

Success factor #2: Measure what matters to customers

This is the foundational tactic for mitigating the obstacles of perception and complexity. It enables leaders to ask questions around operational performance and creating value for customers. By emphasizing metrics such as perfect order delivery (on-time, complete, error-free), perfect response to inquiries and complaints (first-time-right, complete, error-free), and variance to promise date for new product or service introduction, leaders can raise thought-provoking questions that directly strike to operational performance and require cross-departmental collaboration.

Success factor #3: Establish partnerships

Establishing partnerships is another key tactic that can mitigate key obstacles. Establishing a close and collaborative relationship with the Top Management is arguably the most important of these partnerships for increased process orientation and fundamental to success. Others may advocate major change, but, invariably, the Top Management leads the communication of the case for change and the arbiter in deciding which members of the leadership team need to engage.

Success factor #4: Promote Learning

This is the final critical success factor. By measuring what matters to customers and forging essential partnerships, the leadership team can lead lunch and learn sessions around the performance of critical processes and be front and center in reinforcing the need for cross functional collaboration.

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If you need assistance or have any doubt and need to ask any question  contact me at: preteshbiswas@gmail.com  or call at +919923345531. You can also contribute to this discussion and I shall be happy to publish them. Your comment and suggestion is also welcome.

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