By Julio Graham
It’s pretty common knowledge that when a business implements better systems, they see more consistent results.
Despite this, many companies fail to systemize their internal processes, leading to hefty bottlenecks and unexpected challenges.
When you leave your processes in the infantile stages, your business is going to struggle to get running — let alone win the race.
To achieve a truly sustainable level of business performance, you need mature organizational processes that get tasks done in a streamlined, frictionless manner.
But how will you know how well those processes are performing or what level of maturity they’re reaching if you don’t measure their success? You won’t — you’ll be flying blind.
In this article, we’ll delve into the importance of organizational process maturity and how you can measure it to guarantee a sustainable business performance in the face of uncertainty.
What is Organizational Process Maturity?
First implemented in the technology sector, organizational maturity looks at an organization’s capacity and readiness based on the people, processes, technology, and data in place. It’s the extent to which an organization has purposely developed and deployed procedures and systems to carry out certain tasks, along with how these processes are measured.
The technology sector first used this method to see how agile organizations were — how well they could pivot to respond to change.
Results showed that if processes were poor, the capacity to pivot was poor, resulting in huge costs and long delays.
Today, businesses use organizational maturity as a measure of business agility.
Drilling down, organizational process maturity (OPM) looks specifically at business processes. OPM measures how established processes are when it comes to streamlining tasks within a business.
You can measure specific areas of a business for its process maturity and you can measure a business as a whole.
Why is Organizational Process Maturity an Important Metric for Sustainable Business Performance?
Businesses without standardized processes tend to experience huge bottlenecks, such as delays, mistakes, and unexpected costs. In other words, businesses without process maturity can’t sustain a high level of performance.
However, just because you’ve started to standardize your processes doesn’t mean that everything will go swimmingly.
Measuring process maturity helps you to understand just how well those processes are performing and where improvements need to be made to improve your overall business performance.
By measuring the maturity of your processes, you can detect errors early and strategize to streamline processes with more effective solutions.
Equally, mature business processes create stability, even when unforeseen changes occur. When processes are stable, your business is more agile and able to respond to change. In turn, you’re able to sustain your business performance, even in the face of adversity.
To do this, you’ll need to identify key metrics to measure the maturity of your processes and monitor their progress regularly.
How to Measure Organizational Process Maturity
There are various models and methods to measure organizational process maturity — from ISO standards to proprietary measurements. Whichever method you choose, you’ll find that they all tend to agree on the same scale of measuring organization process maturity.
Here are the six levels of organizational maturity. Apply these to individual processes or use them to measure your business maturity as a whole.
Level 0 – No processes
At Level 0, business owners and workers are not aware that there could be a process in place, so there are no processes present.
Most people in these organizations are not even aware that they have issues that need addressing until a crisis hits and they’re in fire-fighting mode.
You’ll find this level or lack of maturity in most households, small businesses, and startup businesses.
What does Level 0 maturity look like?
- There are no processes in place at all
- Staff can’t even conceive of processes
- Fire-fighting is common
- Re-inventing the wheel is a daily practice
Level 1 – Initial
At Level 1, processes are ad hoc and disorganized, driven by superhuman effort. You’ll mostly see reactive processes that are applied on a case-by-case basis.
Staff and/or managers are carrying all specialized information in their heads rather than writing down specific steps that need to be carried out.
While some things may be written down or captured in software, these instructions and procedures aren’t formalized, standardized, or streamlined. The focus is on immediate outcomes with no process-oriented approach to help plan future tasks.
What does Level 1 maturity look like?
- Success is largely dependent on specific people who have specialized knowledge
- Tasks can’t be completed when specific staff members aren’t at work
- Job descriptions and terms of reference may exist but they’re more administrative than operational
- Activities and roles overlap
- There’s no accountability for failures or mistakes
Level 2 – Emergent
At Level 2, processes exist — just.
However, whole activities are loosely planned, processes are unstandardized and uncoordinated.
There is no formal training on processes and the responsibility for doing processes is left to the individual.
As errors aren’t measured, processes are error-prone yet mistakes go unnoticed.
Changes and updates to processes are infrequent and often evolutionary (rather than from conscious design). This means that while processes are theoretically repeatable, staff members may be carrying out processes slightly differently from one another.
What does Level 2 maturity look like?
- Policies are in place but they’re outdated or uncoordinated
- Roles and responsibilities are defined but they’re vague
- Inherent risks are identified but risk management protocols aren’t clear or widely adopted
- Procedures exist but there’s no formal training to implement them
- Process use has brought common practices within a business unit but you’ll notice that each staff member has quirks to their execution.
- There is basic management supervision of the process
- Early stages of process improvement initiatives
Level 3 – Structured
At Level 3, processes have been formally structured, documented, and standardized — though they’re likely not sophisticated. Procedures are controlled and coordinated, and processes generally work well at this stage.
At this stage, you’ll find that processes are communicated through regular, formal training.
However, often, the execution of processes is still left to the individual, so deviations tend to go undetected.
What does Level 3 maturity look like?
- Staff are aware of the processes they should be following but may still deviate with managers realizing
- Enterprise-wide processes are generally effective so there are fewer mistakes and bottlenecks
- Processes are documented but they’re not particularly comprehensive
- There is a defined processes flow
Level 4 – Integrated
By Level 4, procedures are clearly defined and communicated. Process performance is continuously tracked and analyzed for improvement.
There are clear quality assurance and accountability mechanisms so deviations are investigated and eliminated.
Business process automation software and process improvement tools are used to track outputs, outcomes, and compliance.
What does Level 4 maturity look like?
- Processes are tracked for and analyzed to spot bottlenecks and improve efficiency
- Quality is measured and deviations are stamped out
- Process defects are corrected
- Automation and tools are being used
Level 5 – Optimized
At Level 5, processes have been refined to a state of best practice based on data-driven improvements and comparisons with market leaders.
Processes are used as a competitive advantage as tasks are completed in a speedy, streamlined fashion.
At this stage, all decision-making criteria are documented and clear, while change management processes are clearly established for better agility.
What does Level 5 maturity look like?
- Processes are optimized and streamlined so they run faster, cost less money, and produce higher quality results
- There’s a better competitive advantage
- Agility and quick response to change
- Excellent use of business process automation
- Total transparency
What Are the Next Steps to Upgrade Your Organizational Process Maturity?
Once you start measuring your organizational process maturity, you’ll begin to see the gaps that need to be closed.
If you’re looking to upgrade your organizational process maturity, try the following steps.
Establish your current level of maturity
Whether you’re a business owner or a single process owner, it is imperative to understand your current level of process maturity.
- Do I know how many processes I manage? This would imply you know why you have certain processes and why others are not documented.
- Do I know how well these processes perform? If you are measuring the outcomes and outputs of the processes and possibly various indicators along the process path, you are still not measuring the process. Do you know how your process performs against industry standards, your business standards, legal and, regulatory requirements? How do you measure these?
- Do I know what defects exist in a process? Do you have a process for detecting issues?
- Can I guarantee the outcome or output of a process will be consistently the same, regardless of who is involved in performing the procedures? This implies you have training procedures, the process is effective, efficient, and simple-to-follow.
- How many processes are currently under review and being improved, today? This asks whether you have defined steps to measure success and improve your processes.
Contact the experts
If you’ve answered the above questions and it all feels daunting, that’s to be expected — you’re not alone. Many business owners find process improvement overwhelming.
As a business owner, it’s your job to streamline and improve your business processes. But wouldn’t it be helpful if you had a proven framework to help you achieve this?
That’s where I come in.
As a business systems professional, I’m an expert at systemizing the steps needed to push your processes from the early maturity stages through to the more resilient levels of process maturity.
If you’ve never worked to improve process maturity before, it can be complex and confusing.
However, thanks to my broad experience, I’m familiar with the tools and techniques to get you from Level 0 right through to Level 5.
If you’re looking at the answers to your process questions and you have no idea where to start, put your concerns to me. Contact me today to talk about how we can enhance your organizational process maturity to stabilize your business performance.