Interview at Unlocked Podcast
LAST UPDATED: MAY 24th, 2023
LAST UPDATED: MAY 24th, 2023
They talked about the importance of considering People and Culture when implementing and Process Improvement initiatives. Also, Laila explained how the Super User has a role in keeping these 2 as a high priority.
This is Skot: http://skotwaldron.com/
Today on the show we are going to talk to a process management queen. She just knows it all about process management. She’s been studying it, she’s been researching it, she’s written her thesis on it, she’s been implementing it in big and small companies all over the world, and now she’s going to share a little bit of thoughts with us about that and how to implement it more effectively.
Laila was born in Brazil. She has a master’s in strategic management and leadership by the University of Latvia. She’s currently in Latvia. She helps establish and restructure small medium organizations in different countries. She’s done this with big companies as well. She is a productivity mentor, helping professionals develop working habits that allow them to work more effectively and find real work-life balance. And that’s really, really important. She has a framework for process excellence implementation that she has developed and she’s going to talk to us a little bit about that. Most of what we’re talking about on the call today is people and culture because that’s what we talk about on this show and how that is so crucial to process management. So we’re going to get on with this interview. Here we go.
Laila, hello. How’re you doing?
I’m very good, thank you. How are you?
I am fantastic. It’s so fun talking to you finally. We talked long time ago and we were poking around some different ideas and you are super fascinating to me.
Thank you very much. It’s very nice to be here. It’s very exciting.
Yeah, just your story and your background is really interesting. Your ambition and drive is really just like, it’s very inspiring. So despite all the various things that you do, we’re going to focus on continuous improvement today because this is your jam, like you are in it and you understand it, and I want you to help my audience discover more about what they can do to help get over this obstacle of continuous improvement. The thing that happens is we invest all this stuff in culture or people or whatever, and then it just falls off, right?
So tell me first of all, when we get into this, let’s talk about what it is at the core that you do so that we can get a clear baseline.
Yeah. So my background is in process management. I work with process management in a very people and culture focused way. So my goal is really to create a continuous improvement culture in companies. I have worked in very big corporations. Right now I’ve been focusing on smaller ones, like giving the supports that usually these companies can’t get. So I have a company called Process-U that does that. But since the beginning, I always wanted to focus on the people because I realized how much effort is put by the process professionals, process owners, and implementing so many tools in doing a lot of stuff. But then somehow the people sometimes don’t buy into it, they don’t use the flow charts to have drawn. So I was curious about why is it, why aren’t people buying to it after all the investment made. So that’s what I focus on.
So then let’s start there. So you develop these processes and then people don’t implement them. So why don’t people implement them? What’s the problem?
So what I found out is when I was digging into this question, exactly like why aren’t people using it, I looked at many researches, state of the business, things published that are done throughout the year. So companies are interviewed about which efforts are you making in process in the BPM world, the business process management world, and I realize that you have six main factors. You always have to consider if you want a company to grow in maturity, in process management and ultimately in continuous improvement you have the strategic side of it. So having the strategy and the KPIs, all the measurements, all the goals aligned with this continuous improvement and process view. You have the governance, how all the roles are defined. You have methodologies being used, you have IT, the systems you implement, but then you have also people and culture.
And when you look at the bigger projects that happen like SAP implementation, big systems implementation, usually the projects are covering well the first four as well as these state of the industry surveys. They ask a lot of things about the methodologies, about how the goals are, about governance, about methodologies, IT, but very rarely they ask questions about “What are you doing about the people? How are you changing the culture itself?” You have something about, “Oh yes, we made a presentation to everybody where we gave a training,” but that doesn’t really change the mindset that maybe informs them the project happened, but it doesn’t change the mindset. So I realize we are not even looking at all the dimensions we need to look at to be able to have this evolve. We’re analyzing part of it and saying, “Why aren’t we moving forward? Why are people still ignoring us?” It’s because we’re not even looking at these two other pieces that are people and culture.
So do you consider that the most crucial part of these six components? What do you think is the most crucial one?
These two are the most difficult ones.
Because in a way, once you get a decision from management, “Let’s implement something,” it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of money, but it’s still technical. Stuff is always easier than people. So these are the two most difficult parts. And especially when you have people more with an IT and engineering background, dealing with people is not what their experts in so this can stay as a second thing in order of priorities, but that’s actually core to make everything being used.
Okay. So I’m frustrated with something maybe and I’m trying to implement something and I’m trying to get a process down and I’m trying to build some solution inside my organization and I’ve discovered, “Okay, we’ve got this process, we’ve gotten all the IT stuff and we’ve got the tech and we’ve got a strategy in place and the KPI” because you’re right, that’s the easy stuff, because that’s stuff I don’t have to manage emotions of like KPIs, KPIs don’t have emotions. So now I’ve got to manage this people part. Now I’m like, “Ah, now I got to do the people stuff.” So what’s your solution to this? How do I implement this in a way that’s actually going to have an ROI?
Yeah, so as I was digging into this question, exactly the same question, “What do I do about people and culture?”, I found out that a role I was playing at that moment, like a role I had in the company was a big solution. I’m not going to say this is the solution for all the problems. I mean nothing the solution for all the problems, but this is a tool that can be very, very useful for corporations.
So this is the Super User, but not in the original definition of someone that has more access to the system and takes part on testing. It’s a much broader concept. So the Super User, as I see it, and I’ve been looking for a new name for it, but I still don’t find one that sounds good enough, the Super User as I see it, is a person inside of a certain department that has knowledge of the process and also knows knowledge management, knows or you teach the person, which is usually what you do to onboard the Super Users. But it’s someone that instead of just having a business process office or an excellence department that is the one managing all of that and then you have some process owners responsible for the processes, you also have someone in each department and that helps in so many ways to make the bridge between this is, let’s say, to simplify process, people are talking, the guys that just implemented everything and this is reality. How do I convince this guy to learn this language? For me, the Super User is the bridge for both things.
Okay. So I implement this person. You’re saying it’s not just one person in a company. There’s a person in each department?
Yeah. So you have what’s called a Super User network. Depending on the size of the company, you can have a lot, you can have very little. Last time I implement the Super User network, there were basically 10 people in the company. So three were Super Users, I mean, yeah, but that’s all they needed. So the Super User sees that certain process from the perspective of that role that he is. If he’s a customer support, if he’s sales, if he’s marketing, he’s looking at all the processes but from his perspective. So he helps all his team connects to the process from his perspective. So he acts during training. He trains whoever’s on onboarded already in a process view but already explaining, “This is how you read the process because you’re marketing. You do this, this, and that.” He can also identify issues from where he is and help connect that to the team that actually solves the issues. He filters a lot that doesn’t have to go to IT.
So it’s really key to have it in each function now that it makes sense or at least each bigger department, but it has to be someone that knows very well all the activities on that department to represent all of them. So in some cases, if you have for example AR and credits combined in one department, it might be you have two different Super Users because it’s two very different, I don’t know, processes, but you need one per role.
One thing that’s important is that this might sound like a lot of work, like suddenly I’m going to have 200 people involved on that, but this is not a role that takes the full-time of the person. The person continues doing her job, but she centralizes in her certain activities that already happen in the department but are partially done by the manager, are partially done by people assigned to certain projects. It’s just the same person looking at all of these activities. So in the end, it’s actually saving time for the department to have it centralized and well managed by this one person.
Okay, so this Super User, I mean what size company are we talking about here? Does a small company find this useful or is it only for big large companies?
So big large companies will for sure have a network. So you need to have much more Super Users, you might have them in different locations. So it becomes really network management, like a bigger event. There is actually a company in the US called Sun-Source that is specialist in managing the network and helping you implement it for bigger companies. But I see it also useful for smaller companies. As I said, it might be one Super User, two Super Users, the network might not be big, but the fact that you have someone that learns how to manage knowledge, someone that can coach his colleagues on the process, “What a process thinking is, what does it mean that I’m inside of a process?”, I think this can be useful for any small company. So in smaller companies it might be more focused on the knowledge management part, a little bit in the process design, but more knowledge management. But I think still having someone that knows a little bit of these things is helpful anywhere.
Okay. And if I’m looking for a Super User, I’m like, “Okay, this sounds good.” I mean, I don’t really know what’s totally entailed on onboarding a Super User and how to get them up to speed and all these things, but what kind of person am I looking for first of all? I think that’s something where I need to start. Like if I’m scanning my network and I’m looking at my employees and my staff and I’m like, “Okay, I need to implement something like this, but I got to find somebody first that’s going to do this,” who am I looking for?
Yeah, that’s a key question. So it’ll usually be someone that first likes digging into stuff and understanding why is this happening. Like you have a problem in the system, “Where do they come from? Where did that number come from? What is broken?” So one thing is that the person likes understanding that because the idea is that she understands very well the process from inside. So this problem solving curiosity.
The other thing is that it has to be someone that likes sharing this knowledge, not someone that just sits there on the computer and “Don’t bother me,” but it has to be someone that naturally likes sharing because one of the things a Super User does is really to support the team. So you become kind of the trainer of your whole team. You support a lot, the manager, with the team. So whenever someone has a problem in the system, they’re going to come to you like, “Hey, this is not working. Can you come see?” So it can’t be a very big effort for you to be dealing with people because otherwise it’s going to be tortured. It has to be someone that likes sharing. I would say and the person has to know very well the routine of the department. So I think these three things are the main ones.
Good. Okay. So have you ever seen a really good Super User in action? I’m sure you have. You’ve been doing this for a while. You’ve implemented this inside of companies. Give me a case study so that we can all understand what we’re talking about here.
So I saw Super Users in action happening very well in Latvia in shared service center. And so what happened there is they transferred their shared service center from Belgium into Latvia and they had everybody like a new team. So everybody was being trained at the same time. All the knowledge was simply transferred from Belgium. It was a company that’s already around for 150 years, has a lot of procedures already defined, how you should do stuff. There was one department where they had around 50 different documents to read about how to use the system. So it was pretty heavy. It was one of these departments that’s in the middle of everything. It was in the case like customer support/logistics execution. They were in the middle of everything.
In the beginning people are like, “Why read this stuff?” Like, “Eh!” Trying to figure out how the system works, having very short training to everybody starting working together. So it was a big challenge for the team. There since the beginning they had Super User in this department and in other departments around. What happened little by little is that the Super User really helped people… First, it really dig into the system and understanding why. So there was one person in the company that had a lot of experience. This person had come to rig exactly to implement everything. The Super User just spent a lot of time with this person asking, “Why are the lot numbers like that? Why are…” Anything, any kind of question. Whenever she had time, she went to bug this more experienced person who was very happy to have someone to tell about stuff.
So what happens, that in the end the Super User really had a lot of knowledge of the system. He created a training material. Instead of having this 50 documents, he created a training material that take all the survival guide that actually took all these documents and referenced like as a customer support, this is how you read all the rest of the documents, and really worked with each person like, “How can you learn better the process?” What happened after two years was that each time there was a disagreement with any of the plans or with anybody inside of the company, people from the zone department would actually refer to the procedure and say, “Oh no, but the procedure explains this, this and that.” So they understood that when you follow the procedure, first, you can help fixing the procedure, it would happen a lot in that department. But also when you’re following the procedure, there is already a better way of doing things that is defined like that because it’s more optimal because it was tested, because that’s how the system is developed.
So instead of seeing that as a burden like, “I have to follow the instructions,” they saw it as a way of better communicating with other departments, making decisions of, “Can we change something or not?” It all came from actually using the process. So I think it was a very good example of really the whole team started thinking within the process instead of being just the happy Super User, we finally managed to do that. So that was a very good example.
Nice. So there’s some synergy there with the people, which is really important. Now I’m going to read something you said. You said that, “Everyone can be involved in the change, not just the experts. It’s up to each person to build it as well. And having this abundance mindset brings true transformation.” So tell me about the way mindset plays a role in process management and this idea of a Super User. Because I don’t hear too much about abundance mindset because that’s kind of a touchy thing, and this process management which is very tactical, right? So you’re bridging this gap. You’re talking about abundance mindset. Why?
Yeah, abundance mindset is about not being afraid of sharing, not being afraid of building together because it’s not like I’m going to have a bad consequence for me if I collaborate. When you’re working inside of processes, you need to be able to collaborate because no process happens only inside of one specific department. They all go through multiple departments. And if you actually want to find the optimal for the entire thing, you have to be able to share information with other departments, not be defensive about, “Oh, if I tell them that, then maybe I’m going to have to give them more information.” Maybe that is what’s needed for the process as a whole, but it’ll bring benefits to everybody.
So I think yeah, that’s one way how the abundance mindset would apply, really look at the whole, want to build the whole with people and don’t be afraid, don’t be defensive. Don’t be afraid of spending time discussing the process, discussing improvements, even if maybe I don’t see a direct benefit to me, but in the end, if it optimizes the work for everybody, the result is better for the company, there’s less time wasted in so many other smaller tasks. So really sharing this time with people. Not being afraid of sharing, not being afraid of telling everything, no. Not keep information for yourself to save your peace because actually everybody’s in the same process.
Really, really good. Really smart. Yeah, the scarcity mindset is going to cause us all to hold on to what we have or protect our knowledge and for fear of whatever, right? Self-preservation I call it quite a bit, but it’s going to hold us all back for making any progress in the process, and that’s going to be a definite problem. So thanks for sharing this knowledge. This is really beneficial in so many ways for so many different people inside of organizations to understand this. How do people find out more about this? If they want to find out more… I mean, your whole thesis was on this. You’ve done a lot of research, you’ve done a lot of implementation in the industry on this topic. You’re well versed in it. A book is coming at some point about this, I’m sure. Where do people find out more about this?
I have a series of articles in this website called BPTrends. So if you Google Super User BPTrends, you’ll find my articles, although there I have my previous surname, Māra Pesoa. So maybe the easiest link is to just go to my LinkedIn, Laila Stancioff, and there I have the link to all these articles. So it basically summarizes everything about the Super User, how did I get there, how did I define it, and from many dimensions, why is it useful. I think that’s where you can get the more information.
Okay. And I’ll also include those links in the show notes for people if they want to click there, go there and check out those articles. So yeah, I think us English speakers may have a hard time finding your previous surname in there, so that would be awesome. If you provide those links, I’ll put those in the show notes and we’ll get those sent out to everybody. So thank you, Laila. This has been really beneficial. I appreciate you and your English is amazing. So thank you for being so dedicated to working at everything, including your English, that you’re able to help so many people with this whole thing. Thank you.
Thanks for having me here. So it’s a pleasure to share, especially about this topic. I’m really very passionate about it, so this is very nice to be here.
If you have difficulty in your organization implementing processes and continuous improvement, then you’ve got a little bit of your answer here, this idea of a Super User. A Super User in this sense can be used to build processes, but a Super User could also be implemented throughout your entire organization for all types of things. We call them internal champions of people of peace, all kinds of things that we give these names to people that represent what we want represented in our organizations, that champion a cause, that drive us forward and drive these initiatives so that we can all make progress. That’s what we’re here, is to do, is to make progress. Most personally as teams, as organizations.
So her framework was really interesting, right? Strategic KPIs, sure. Governance, yes. Methods, okay. It, yeah, sure. So those things, those are the easy things. Now when she tackles people and culture, that’s the tough stuff. So if you have a person, a piece, a champion, a Super User in your organization that understands people, that can talk to people, that can jive well, that has chemistry and competency and credibility and character, all those things that we need to build trust with people, that is your Super User. So I’m super, super grateful for Laila and her insights into this.
Laila Stancioff, Process-U Executive Director