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What Do Process Owners Do?
In our last column, we described various approaches to process ownership that we have seen
established, with varying degrees of success, in different companies.
Our focus was primarily on
the organizational position of the role (a senior executive, a staff, a line manager, and so on) and
the amount of authority accorded the position (control of process design, process performance, or
both, or neither).
This time we would like to describe what we have seen process owners actually doing in the
performance of their roles.
To some extent, of course, what they do is dictated by their position
and authority, but not entirely, so we are presenting a different angle on the subject of process
ownership. We will first describe how we have seen people carry out the role, and then offer
some advice as to what we think they should be doing. We have organized these variations of the
job somewhat by frequency – that is, we start with the tasks we have most often seen process
owners doing and then go from there.
For the sake of simplicity, we are also restricting our descriptions of process ownership to a single
owner of a single process.
In reality, there could be multiple process owners in an organization
who collectively view themselves as managing a network or architecture of processes, or we
could have an owner who owns several related processes.
All those possibilities are understood
but left out of the following descriptions.
The Minister of Process Documentation
The most common preoccupation of process owners that we’ve seen in actual practice has been
the creation and/or maintenance of process documentation.
The purpose for having the
documentation has usually been for certification – for ISO, CMMI, Baldrige, and so on.
Sometimes, the documentation activity is a one-time event (we got certified and that’s it), but
most of the time, verification or recertification is required, so the task becomes maintaining the
documentation or refreshing it in order to survive the next audit.
But, of course, depending on the
resources available to do all this documenting and depending on their position in the organization
vis. a vis. the “line” where the processes are actually performed, there can be an ever widening