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MacNeice and Bowen discuss the High Performance Process - 2: The Solution Defined

15th November 2016 | Brian MacNeice, James Bowen

In our last article, we focused on the Process pillar of our Powerhouse model, we described the types of processes we observed in the institutions where we work and research, and the process “problem” that we typically encounter. In this article we want to set out the gold standard for what we’re looking to achieve and the characteristics of high performance process models that we observe in institutions that are at the tops of their games.

Simply put, the gold standard profile for high performance governance is dominated by strategic processes, supported by the minimum possible amount of regulating processes, with zero presence of accommodating processes. Secondly the “volume” of process, or the amount of time it takes up in total, should fit comfortably into the working days/weeks/months of the institutions’ leaders, with “white space” to spare to allow for thinking, lunch, and other currently unimaginable pursuits. 

Fig. 1 below captures an idealized process transformation.While this captures the ideal profile of high-performance process, we can push harder to define its broader characteristics.

Fig. 1. Idealised Process Transformation


From our research and our work over the years, we would propose the following nine attributes of high-performance process:

  1. It’s strategic – it’s designed (in the round) to explicitly and directly support the ongoing evolution and deployment of the institution’s Vision.
  2. It’s consistent across the institution – built on common, standardized principles, frameworks and information-bases, agreed and bought-into by all.
  3. It’s integrated, joined-up and seamless – information/data cascades up, down and across the organization in sync.
  4. It’s about leading and managing in parallel - driving better decisions, more decisions, and more timely decisions, system-wide – ensuring decisions are taken once, by the right people, working as “close to the action” as possible. Decision-rights are clear and respected, as are escalation processes, however these are used by exception only.
  5. It drives better conversion of decisions into action into performance, through increased accountability and (better and faster) visibility of actions and performance.
  6. It’s educational – creating better understanding of operations and increased awareness of cause and effect – within and across functions, up and down the organization.
  7. It is energizing, engaging and inclusive – it supports and builds collaboration, team-working and trust – both within and across functions. It is “anti-silo”.
  8. It’s living, dynamic and situational– it evolves over time.
  9. There’s (always) just enough of it – it frees up, trusts and expects – leaders to lead, and people to actually do what they need to get done.

Process models that are holistic and satisfy these “acid tests” can truly be described as high-performing and contributing to the competitive advantage of their institutions.

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