4 Stages of Process Competence

Context

The core elements for successful execution in any organisation are its People, its Strategy and its Operations. The common threads that connect these elements are ‘Processes’. Each of the elements are run by respective processes, when complementing each other will deliver the desired outcomes and if not aligned with one another will result in the company’s downfall. Across organisations, the level of competency in process-thinking varies.

Akin to Noel Burch’s stages of learning, organisations achieve process competency and maturity in four stages.

Stage 1:  I don’t know, so I don’t have the competence

                    (Unconscious Process Incompetence)

The organisation does not understand or know how to manage their processes and does not recognise it as a deficit at all. Some organisations even deny that process management is a useful competency to have. Obviously,the required skills are either missing or very poorly developed – whatever has been developed is not as a recognition for the competency but for other tactical purposes. Such organisations do not even have a basic framework or methodology upon which their processes can be structured. The responsibility of informing the organisation about its lack of competency lies with its leaders – or an expert in the said skill. Either the leaders are not aware of this competency or have not been exposed to specialists or consultants in this area. A vast majority of organisations, big and small, are at this level of process competency even now.

Stage 2:  I know now, but I don’t have the competence

                     (Conscious Process Incompetence)

The organisation has recognised or begun to recognise the need and value for a process competency and has now become aware that it does not have the necessary skills to develop that competency. It takes nascent steps to create the process capability. The organisation now either has brought in leaders who have the knowledge and expertise of process competence or has hired external experts who can consult them on building the capability. It now understands the concepts of process architecture, process cataloguing, process delivery lifecycle and process management frameworks. A significant number of companies are now in this stage – they know that there is a gap and are trying to bridge it. Within this stage are also a small number of companies who think they have become competent but are actually not. They have a sense of ‘false competency’ – at one end are those that have adopted incorrect process management practices and at the other, those that have overengineered their processes.

Stage 3:  I know now, and I have the competence

                     (Conscious Process Competence)

In this stage, the organisation has built a strong level of process competency in most of its business areas. The leadership owns the process capability and is seen driving the communication across the company.  All units of the organisation follow a process framework and has the process methodology built into their learning agenda. Change projects refer to the process framework for prioritisation, impact analysis and feasibility and make logical investments. The company also has engaged with neutral third-party providers to assess their process maturity levels that are certified after due appraisals. The competency having been developed recently, there is a heavy conscious involvement to execute the skills and scale it across the enterprise. A very small percentage of companies would be in this level of process competence as of now.

Stage 4:  I have so much competence that I don’t need to know

                     (Unconscious Process Competence)

This is the ultimate stage of process competence. The competency has now become embedded in the DNA of the organisation. An enterprise-level process framework exists; strategy and operations follow the methodology and an optimal level of process documentation exists. The organisation has a culture of continuous improvement, with well-defined metrics for measuring performances of processes that really matter to them. All enablers including technology are driven by processes. The company has had so much practice with this competency that it has become “second nature”. As a result, the process competency is integrated into all other methodologies that drive the execution. The company now is a master and can share the knowledge & best practices with the wider community.

The process competency brings out the best in all the execution elements, as the organisation follows a consistent approach that is aligned with its culture, and does not depend on a particular person, strategy or technology to sustain its growth.