CPO's with passion, but no power: we’ve been doing it wrong.


Business is about living and learning. That’s what we’ve been doing a bit of recently.

When we implement Promapp, we help clients establish a governance structure for process management. One of the most important parts of that structure is choosing a Chief Process Officer (CPO). This person drives change and pushes the organization.  The CPO role is critical to success. They’re tasked with empowering process champions and creating a culture of process improvement.

In the past, we let businesses choose who should take the CPO role. Those people were passionate and skilled so we let them have the job. But we shouldn’t have.

Critical role, critical failure

Passion and skill just aren’t enough – the CPO also needs to have clout to back it up. They need to be able to create cultural change by rewarding people when they do well and pushing them if they lag behind. For that reason, the CPO really needs to be a member of the executive team. As much as we all wish our companies had a flat hierarchy, the reality is that more junior team members don’t carry the influence they need to implement change.

The proof is in the process

The value of having a CPO in the C-suite isn’t just anecdotal. We’ve analysed our client base and found far better engagement in organizations when the Chief Process Officer is at exec level.

In fact, it’s a statistical red flag when the executive team isn’t interested in being involved. Implementation works best when the management team is invested – emotionally and literally – in the outcome. Without that drive from the top, implementation is likely to be less effective.

When the CPO role is given to someone at a lower level, process improvement becomes something optional or extra. It gets put off until people have time. Which is to say, never.

Influencing improvement

All organizations should have a CPO in the C-suite – even if they’re not implementing Promapp. We know that this role is critical to the success of ongoing improvement efforts. We also know, based on BPM research conducted by TNS Global Research that 84% of businesses still don’t have a person in this role.

Without engagement from a member of the executive team, it’s difficult to engage the rest of your staff. And if your staff aren’t fully engaged with process improvement, it’s not going to make much of a difference.

Don’t make the same mistake we did - choose a CPO with influence.


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