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Improving Processes

Processes are the chains of activity through which an organization fulfills its needs and the needs of the individuals and groups with which it interacts. Core processes are what permit the organization to achieve its purpose, and other processes support these.

One danger in a group is that each member vaguely thinks someone else should do something about flaws they observe in its processes. Frequently, group members see inefficiencies but don’t act on ideas they have for remedying them. Failure to act lowers a follower’s sense of responsibility for what is occurring. Each follower thinks, “If I were in charge, I would do it differently, but I’m not in charge, so it’s not my problem.” Meanwhile, the common purpose suffers.

Courageous followers do not quietly ignore or ineffectively complain about wrongs they see. They do not assume that others also see these things and will correct them. They look for and find the avenues open to them for effecting change.

When considering responsibilities for the organization’s processes, bear in mind these thoughts:

Remedying a specific service complaint helps retain the individual customer’s loyalty, but remedying the process that caused it saves the loyalty of many.

If there is a clear process owner who has official responsibility for that process, our minimum responsibility is to ensure that the owner is aware of the process flaws we have observed.

If there is no clear process owner or process improvement team, we should alert the organization to the need for one.

Courageous followers don’t just tell the leader “something should be done about this,” adding to the burden of leadership, but present ideas for improving the process that the leader can consider.

Improving a process, such as the fulfillment of member requests in an association, the involvement of community groups in policy making, or the shortening of response time to customer orders, often requires a champion to focus the organization on the need for it and to ensure that the necessary follow-through occurs. A courageous follower is willing to be this champion.