Last week, we began discussing tips for people who are new to heading departments at companies and other organisations. These tips can also be useful to those already experienced in such roles but looking to further improve on their performance, effectiveness and impact in the role. Even those who are not yet at Head level, can learn some vital skills for the current and especially for their future roles. We focussed on the subject of managing people last week and today, we will dwell on ‘processes’.
At head level, managing processes is key to your job. Check to see if you have robust or any processes at all in your department. Do not just do things in an unorganised fashion. You need clearly defined and documented processes for everything. A good starting point is to list the major activities that happen and that should happen in your department. Then check against each one of them if there are underlying processes for each of them. For existing processes, review to determine if they are robust and where lacking, develop the processes and put them in place.
Make sure that the managers below you own the processes, follow the processes and adhere to the processes. In particular, make sure that there is total adherence to key processes that would attract the attention of auditors. Remember that failing an audit can be detrimental. Audit must be on your mind on a daily basis. Review past audit reports to understand the flaws that were identified last time. There will be a few of them that relate to processes—either in terms of the absence of processes or lack of adherence. Develop a plan to close those gaps and identify what else can be picked upon by the auditors next time they can for reviews.
At your level, you are dealing with so many issues of different nature, from different people and from numerous sources. You need to keep a record of all important communication, transactions and minutes of all meetings. Record keeping at your level can be the medicine against unwarranted job loss. Do not become a victim of lack of record. Any documents or emails that come your way must be saved and kept safe for a long time. If possible, I even encourage that for the vital documentation, keep up to two or three different backups in different places. I have seen people saving their jobs at critical moments only because they safely kept some record of transactions, minutes or communication. Even when you change jobs, have a personal record of important information that can be used against you or that you can use to save your life, your reputation and your career.
Finally, you need to be in control of your territory. Be a master of your processes. Be in control. Let your seniors face no surprises coming from your way. You need a way that helps you capture all issues, gaps, challenges and opportunities in your department. You need mechanisms for information to flow smoothly and quickly within your department. If you hear things concerning your department from outside your department—for example from your CEO or other heads, it means that you have a serious problem. When someone external wants to report or escalate to you some major or outstanding issue, you should be in a position of already being aware of that matter and that you know the status and progress being made. For this to be possible, you need to devise good mechanisms for information flow in your department. We leave that as homework for you to design an appropriate mechanism for capturing vital departmental information in time. n