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The Effects of Process-Oriented Organizational Design on Firm Performance

This article briefly summarizes the study “The Effects of Process-Oriented Organizational Design on Firm Performance”, by M. Kohlbacher and H. A. Reijers, which will be published in the Business Process Management Journal.

The study investigates which process management components (i.e. process design and documentation, management commitment towards process management, process ownership, process performance measurement, corporate culture in line with the process approach, application of continuous process improvement methodologies, and organizational structure in line with the process approach) are important for improving customer satisfaction, product quality, time-to-market speed, delivery speed, delivery reliability, and financial performance.

The empirical findings of the study reveal that

  • process performance measurement is important for improving product quality.
  • a process-oriented organizational structure is important for improving time-to-market speed.
  • the application of continuous process improvement methods is important for improving financial performance, and
  • a culture in line with the process approach is important for improving customer satisfaction, delivery speed, delivery reliability, and financial firm performance.

The paper will be published in the next issue of the Business Process Management Journal (Vol. 19, No. 2, 2013).

Process Ownership and Continuous Process Improvement: Effects on Financial Performance and Customer Satisfaction

This article introduces the study “The Joint Impact of Process Ownership and Continuous Process Improvement on Financial Performance and Customer Satisfaction” by D. Weitlaner, M. Kohlbacher and A. Kamagaew, which will be presented at the IEEE International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management in Hong Kong in December 2012. The study is nominated for the best paper award.

The process owner role and continuous process improvement are two key components of business process orientation. The article investigates whether the implementation of these two concepts can improve the firms’ financial performance and customer satisfaction. The study is based on data from 840 Austrian manufacturing and service companies. The empirical evidence indicates that organizations that implement both concepts – process ownership and continuous process improvement – reap the fruits of process management in terms of higher financial performance and customer satisfaction.

The paper will be available via IEEE Xplore after the conference. The poster of the study can be found here.

How Process Management Impacts Innovation Performance

This article briefly summarizes the study “The Effects of Process Orientation on Exploitative and Explorative Innovation”, by D. Weitlaner and M. Kohlbacher, which will be presented at the 32nd Annual International Conference of the Strategic Management Society, which will take place in Prague, October 7-9, 2012. The presentation of the paper will take place in Track I, Session 239, on the 9th of October (see session details).

The study investigates how individual components of process orientation (i.e. continuous process improvement, corporate culture in line with the process approach, management commitment towards the process program, the process owner role, process performance measurement as well as process knowledge and documentation) affect explorative and exploitative innovation. Exploitative innovations (or incremental innovations) refer to small-scale improvements and adjustments of existing goods/services of a company. In contrast, explorative innovations represent entirely new goods/services which are not inferred from the existing supply of a company.

The empirical study involves 840 Austrian enterprises operating in the manufacturing or service industry. The empirical findings reveal that continuous process improvement and a culture that is in line with the process approach are significantly and positively associated with both types of innovation. The empirical evidence also shows that a narrow focus on detailed process documentation may actually be cumbersome to explorative innovation.

Developing an Enterprise Process Model Based on Cascading and Segmentation of Business Processes: A Case Study

This article introduces the study “Process Cascade- and Segmentation-Based Organizational Design: A Case Study” by Kohlbacher M. and Weitlaner D., which was presented at the IEEE International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management in Singapore in December 2011.

The paper discusses the approach of process cascading and segmentation, a design principle which helps organizations to build its structure around its customer-oriented business processes. Cascading of processes is an approach where the organization’s business process design is based on internal customer-supplier relationships which ensure that every business process of the organization has a clearly defined (internal) customer which places an order and also receives the results. Segmentation of business processes refers to the idea of creating process variants of business processes which face heterogeneous market and/or customer requirements. Both principles – cascading and segmentation of business processes – complement each other. The paper shows how these design principles are applied in practice by using an Austrian manufacturing firm as a case study.

The poster of the presentation can be found here; the paper is available via IEEE Xplore.

Modeling Business Processes with the Event-Driven Process Chain (EPC)

This article gives a brief introduction into modeling business processes by using the Event-Driven Process Chain.
The Event-driven Process Chain (EPC) is a type of flowchart and was developed by Prof. Wilhelm-August Scheer at the Universität des Saarlandes in the early 1990s. There are four basic elements of the EPC:

  • Events: The event describes the incidence of a state. This state activates a function or is the result of a function. Events are passive elements in EPC. Every process begins and ends with one or more events.
  • Functions: Functions represent tasks or activities within the company. Functions describe transformations from an initial state to a resulting state. They are active elements in EPC. Functions consume resources and time. A verb should be used for the name of a function.
  • Logical Connectors: By using the three different logical operations (AND, OR, and XOR), branchings can be inserted between events and functions.
  • Control Flow: The control flow describes the chronological-logical dependency of events and functions and can be split up by using the logical connectors.
EPC elements

 

 

A simple EPC model is depicted in the following picture:

Simple EPC diagram

 

 

Events and functions can be connected by logical connectors in the following ways:

Events, functions and logical operators in the EPC

Process Owners: How to Help Them Succeed

This is a brief summary of the article “How to help process owners succeed”, posted on Harvard Business Review Blog Network by Brad Power.

According to Brad, six things militate against success in the role of the process owner:

  • The management team’s attention shifts to other priorities.
  • Process owners misunderstand their role.
  • Process owners are not held accountable for improvements.
  • Process owners are not senior enough to have the necessary influence.
  • The organizational structure to accommodate the role is too complex.
  • Employees are uncomfortable belonging to business processes rather than functions.

Brad lists 6 specific bullet points how to address these issues:

  1. Make the process owner role permanent and incorporate it into overall performance management.
  2. Select process owners with strong leadership skills and develop those skills even further.
  3. Make the process owner accountable for how well the process performs.
  4. Give the process owner organizational power.
  5. Minimize disturbance to the organizational structure. Create process owners outside the formal organization with a very small staff, leave most people in their functional organizations, and clarify the process owner’s role with respect to the functions and business units they will work with.
  6. Help employees get comfortable thinking in terms of end-to-end activities that together generate value to customers. Encourage cross-departmental activities that solve customer problems, and reward cross-departmental teamwork.

The Principle of Process-Cascading and its Performance Impact

This article summarizes the study “The Performance Effects of Process Cascade-Based Organizational Design” by Kohlbacher M. and Weitlaner D., which was presented at the IEEE 2011 7th International Conference on Next Generation Web Services Practices in Salamanca, Spain, in October 2011.

An organizational design based on process cascades is an approach where the business process design of the organization is based on internal customer-supplier relationships. This design principle was originally developed by Schantin (2004) and Suter (2004; 2009). The principle is based on the idea that, in general, each business process is activated by an order which is placed by another business process. The receiving process executes the order and delivers the results back to the ordering process. The ordering process therefore acts as an internal customer for the receiving process, which acts as an internal supplier. The approach is recursive, i.e. the supplier process may act itself as a customer process which places an order to a third process, and so forth. The principle is illustrated by the following figure:

The principle of cascading business processes.

The principle of cascading business processes.

The study discusses the idea of process-cascade based organizational design and empirically investigates the impact of such a design on firm performance. The empirical findings of the study are that firms which implemented process-cascade-based organizational design achieve higher firm performance. The paper is available via IEEE Xplore.

Survey on Process Management: Structure follows Process

In the process approach, it is the process which comes to the fore, and not the existing organizational structure (Becker et al., 2004).This article discusses the concept of structure follows process which was investigated by the process management survey. Survey details (research design, sample, etc.) can be found here.

A process-oriented organization has adapted its structure to the process view. Several authors stress that the organizational structure should be aligned with the organization’s business processes (Suter, 2004; Gaitanides, 2007; Kiraka and Manning, 2005). 45% of the surveyed firms state that they derived their organizational structure from the organization’s business processes.

The item “The organizational structure is derived from the organization’s business processes” was rated by the firms in the sample as follows:

  • 22,96%: Disagree
  • 31,85%: Neither agree nor disagree
  • 45,19%: Agree
The organizational structure is derived from the organization's business processes.

The organizational structure is derived from the organization's business processes.

Survey on Process Management: Process-Oriented HR-Systems

Human resources systems have to support the process approach (Hammer, 2007). Process-oriented HR-systems incorporate job descriptions based on business process design and incentive systems that emphasize the process’ needs. This article discusses empirical insights on process-oriented HR-systems using the results of the process management survey. Survey details (research design, sample, etc.) can be found here.

In most of the firms, the design of business processes moderately drive role definitions, job descriptions and competency profiles (see figure below). The item “Process’ design drive role definitions, job descriptions and competency profiles” was rated by the firms in the sample as follows:

  • 26,85%: Disagree
  • 40,27%: Neither agree nor disagree
  • 32,89%: Agree
Process’ design drive role definitions, job descriptions and competency profiles.

Process’ design drive role definitions, job descriptions and competency profiles.

Old reward systems based on the functional model are no longer viable in a process-based organization (Armistead and Rowland, 1996). Traditional vertical management systems pull people in one direction, whereas they should work for the interest of inter-functional processes. Therefore, management systems also need to emphasize the process’ needs, otherwise conflict and confusion ensue, lowering performance (Hammer and Stanton, 1999). Interestingly, most of the surveyed organizations do not have reward systems in place that emphasize the needs of the organization’s business processes. The item “Our organization has implemented reward systems (incentive systems) that emphasize the needs of the organization’s business processes” was rated by the firms as follows:

  • 69,33%: Disagree
  • 16,67%: Neither agree nor disagree
  • 14,00%: Agree
The organization has implemented reward systems (incentive systems) that emphasize the needs of the organization’s business processes.

The organization has implemented reward systems (incentive systems) that emphasize the needs of the organization’s business processes.

The Impact of Process Ownership and Process Performance Measurement on Firm Performance

This article summarizes the study “Process Ownership, Process Performance Measurement and Firm Performance” by Kohlbacher M. and Gruenwald S., to be published in the International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 60, Issue 7, 2011.

Process performance measurement and the process owner role are two key components of business process orientation. The article investigates whether the implementation of process owners and process performance measurement can improve firm performance. The study was conducted with 132 randomly selected manufacturing companies in Austria. For every firm one executive (CEO, CIO or quality manager) was interviewed.

The following items were used to measure to which degree the role of the process owner is established in the organization:

  • Is a process owner assigned to each business process?
  • Are process owners experienced managers/leaders?
  • Are process owners responsible for continuous improvement of their processes and do they perform this task proactively?
  • etc.

The following items were used to measure to which degree measurement of process performance is carried out in the organization:

  • Are performance indicators defined for business processes?
  • Are process performance indicators derived from enterprise goals and/or from (internal) customer requirements?
  • Are improvement actions actually initiated if poor process performance is encountered?
  • etc.

Results of the study:

The contingency table of the process owner role and process performance measurement is illustrated below:

Process Performance Measurement
Low implementation High implementation Total
Process ownership Low implementation 46
(34.8%)
5
(3.8%)
51
(38.6%)
High implementation 34
(25.8%)
47
(35.6%)
81
(61.4%)
Total 80
(60.6%)
52
(39.4%)
132
(100%)

In approx. 35% of the firms, both process performance measurement and process owners are virtually absent. Approx. 26% of the interviewed firms implemented process owners in their organization, but do not or only sparely measure the performance of their business processes. Approx. 4% of the organizations implemented process performance measurement, but have no or only a rudimental implementation of the process owner role. Finally, approx. 36% of the firms have both process performance measurement and process owners in place.

The core finding of the study is that implementing process performance measurement or the process owner role only is insufficient to achieve high performance. Organizations must implement both concepts (process performance measurement and the process owner role) to reap the fruits of process management. This finding is illustrated in the following figure:

processowner_processperformancemeasurement_performance

The left illustration applies for firms with no or rudimentary implementation of process performance measurement. These firms apparently cannot profit from establishing process owners. The right illustration applies for firms which (comprehensively) implemented the concept of process performance measurement. It can be said that those firms benefit from establishing the process owner role in their organization.

In summary, the empirical evidence shows that both concepts – process ownership and process performance measurement – must be present in the organization in order to gain higher organizational
performance.