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Process Improvement: If Not You, Who? If Not Now, When?

March 04, 2014 | By John Donlon

While process improvement may be urgently needed, marketing and sales leaders are often reluctant to take on yet another challenge. Take the reigns and be a process hero! Learn how marketing and sales leaders can improve and take ownership of processes and operations within their department.

In my last post on exposing the hidden hurdles to real process improvement in sales and marketing, we explored how being an efficient middle man can give a false sense of security. In this post, we’ll delve into another topic: lack of ownership.

While process improvement may be urgently needed, marketing and sales leaders are often reluctant to take on yet another challenge. “Sure, I can see how messed up this process is, but it’s not up to me to fix it,” they say to themselves. “No way I’m taking on THAT political battle, and besides, I’ve already got enough on my plate. The last thing I need is some special project.”

It’s such a common refrain – one we’ve all muttered to ourselves at one time or another. We’ve likely commiserated with a co-worker or two about process issues at the proverbial water cooler, and maybe even floated a few suggestions on how to fix things. But any real action? Um, no.

Instead, we offer up some half-hearted, inane corporate-speak to end the conversation (“well, we’ll get there”), and then it’s back to our day jobs. Sure, it seems like a waste for eight people to review an email three times each before it goes out the door… but who am I to step in and try to fix that?

But you’re a process hero! You’re the one who can end this cycle. How? Keep reading, Master Builder:

  • Make no excuses – own it. You may not want to hear this, but chances are, if you can see the problem and it gets you fired up, you’re the perfect person to fix it.
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    • Make the case. Pick a broken process and do some back-of-the-envelope math on the benefits (e.g. hours, dollars, aggravation quotient) of fixing it. Propose the solution to your manager (or higher) and see how it plays against the tapestry of overall priorities.
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      • Make room. If the process improvement is a go, have the project added to your goals and objectives as a specific deliverable. You might even need to temporarily step away from another responsibility so that you’re sure to have the bandwidth to work on the process improvement.
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        • Make others feel empowered. Publicize the win as an example of how everyone’s ideas are valued and can come to fruition. It can take a while to build a culture of action-oriented, continuous improvement, but once you get that flywheel rolling … oh man, watch out!
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          Up next: “It’s Not All About You…”

          John Donlon

          John Donlon is a Senior Research Director for Marketing Operations at SiriusDecisions. A recognized thought leader in marketing operations, he has over 20 years of experience in information technology, process improvement, and measurement and reporting. Follow John on Twitter at @SiriusJD.
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