Brad Power has a nice post on HBR about “The Right CEO Personality for Process Improvement” this week. The article hit a nerve with me. As a marketer whose “products” involve a lot of processes to deliver or maintain (checking accounts, mortgages, auto loans, etc.) them, the success of my efforts (new products or promotions) are greatly affected by the quality of my company’s processes.

The ugly truth of the financial services industry is that your rates may attract potential business, but your processes will determine if you get and keep the businesses. Yes, yes, yes…people are extremely important in this equation, but if you arm great people with inefficient/obstructive processes or policies you will kill the relationship they have worked so hard to build. Kill enough relationships and you will also kill the employee’s desire to build new ones.

This is why I like the article above and the previous one posted about CEO’s role in process improvement. The CEO who does not drive process improvement will be saddled with the same results no matter what they try to drive business in the door or make their people produce more if your process can not handle the additional volume or drives as many people out as it drives in.

This does not mean CEOs need to be TQM fanatics or Six Sigma black belts. It does mean that CEOs should do at the following to make process improvement a priority for their organization:

  • Survey your customers continuously. Even a simple two question survey (that is tracked by delivery channel and by individual employee) will give you valuable insight into process issues. The two questions are; 1) How likely would you be to to buy from us again? (on a scale of 0 to 10); and 2) If you answered 7 or below on question 1, please tell us why.
  • Review survey results regularly. Do look at the overall results so you have a good view of your overall performance, but do look at the responses to question 2 by delivery channel and by common subjects. This review can help identify areas where your customers are encountering problems with your processes. Improve these processes and monitor for improvements in your survey results.
  • Make process improvements a core strategy. Little problems left alone eventually become big problems. If process improvement is not a core competency of your company, you will be forced to deal with much bigger problems with expensive outside resources instead of fixing smaller problems internally before you lose a lot of business or have to expend major resources addressing it.

These three steps don’t require a major personality change on the part of the CEO. They will signal to the leadership team, however, that a process should not get in the way of a relationship.