I received an e-mail from a reader who was recently promoted into a process improvement coordinator role working with their management team. He asked me for the right path to begin.
The root of this kind of question is what has caused so much of the fad surfing and rigid off-the-shelf programs that have messed up so many organizations.

The search for “THE right path” leaves management teams wide open to gurus, consultants, and software vendors selling canned solutions. They are main contributors to the 50 – 70% failure rate in organization improvement efforts like process management.

Prescribing without diagnosis is malpractice in medicine. So is it in the world of consulting. There are core approaches to process management. But run very fast from anyone looking to fit your process problem into their process solution without a very thorough diagnosis that includes a broad and strategic look at the organization.

That vital work must be focused upon and driven by the management team leading the department, division, or corporation. “Delegating” (which more often means abdicating) this leadership role to staff support people, consultants, vendors, or other process specialists is a sure-fire route to being part of the 1/2 to 2/3 failure rate.

Over the years, we have evolved an approach to “Transformation Pathways” (outlined at http://dev.clemmergroup.com/content/view/839/) to help management teams establish the top pathways they need to begin with and then use to put together an implementation plan. In my previous company (The Achieve Group), we followed a two-day executive retreat with a five-day “service/quality academy” (today this would be called a “boot camp” or “black belt training”) for support people like this new coordinator.

Today, The CLEMMER Group, follows a two-day retreat with a few weeks of consulting and co-operative work with internal coordinators. One of our pathways (Improvement Infrastructure/Process) outlines some of this approach at http://dev.clemmergroup.com/content/view/981.

    Asking “what’s the best way to get there” demands:
    1.An accurate assessment of where you are now;
    2.Management team agreement on just where “there” is;
    3.True management team commitment to moving the improvement effort beyond “bolt-on” to “built-in” (go to January 2004 newsletter at www.clemmer.net/newsl/jan2004.html and scroll down to “Assessing Management Commitment”); and
    4.A strong implementation plan.

There is no one pathway to successful process management. The management team needs to assess, chart the way, and drive the implementation.