How does your leadership style impact process performance?

Mike Aroney

Process performance is measured by effectiveness – how effectively the workforce uses the processes as they were designed. To impact process performance by reducing variation in how people use processes, leaders need to consider these questions:

  1. Are people using the processes the way they were designed?
  2. Is everyone proficient in how to use the processes as designed?
  3. Are there clearly defined expectations to which they are held accountable?

The more variation in how processes are followed, the less effective performance will be. The role of leadership in this situation is to reduce variation in process performance by ensuring their people know what to do, know how to do it, and are held accountable for doing it. In terms of Reliability Excellence (Rx), the result of process performance is measured by overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

Competence and commitment are situational. Clear expectations and accountability hold true regardless of the situation. As tasks or situations change for people, so does their ability and desire to accomplish the task. Too often, leaders assume people have the ability and desire to do something, such as following a new set of processes and procedures with zero variation, simply because it is the right thing to do. This assumption often leads to wide variation in behavior and process performance. Leadership’s role is to get the right people with the right attitudes on the tasks, and provide training so they have the knowledge and ability to do them.

Situational leadership requires identifying each individual’s competence level and commitment to the task at hand and adapting leadership style to meet his or her needs, helping them achieve their goals and the goals of the organization. If a leader takes a directive style with someone who is fully capable and committed, the effect is frustration and de-motivation from being micro-managed. If a leader delegates to someone who needs direction and guidance, the result can be just as frustrating and de-motivating. In either case, we end up with poor performance. A good leader analyzes the needs of the situation they are dealing with, and then adopts the most appropriate leadership style.

We know employees are competent when the results of their work meet the desired expectations. In this case, the appropriate leadership style is “delegating” or “supporting.” On the other hand, if the results are not meeting expectations, the leadership style should be “directing” or “coaching.” The difference between the four styles is the level of competence and motivation of the individual.

By clearly defining expectations for performance, a leader can determine an individual’s competency. Individuals tend to act to the lowest acceptable level of performance. In order to get people moving to a higher level of performance, set higher goals and hold individuals accountable. The most effective method for doing this is to regularly provide information on the project status and progress toward milestone achievements.

In the case of process performance, we find wide variation when people do not want to follow the processes, don’t know how to follow them, and are not held accountable to follow them. When there is variation in process performance, the leader should first identify if the reason is due to lack of ability, lack of desire, unclear expectations and accountability, or any combination of the three. After the diagnosis comes the prescription. The leader adapts his or her style to meet the unmet needs of ability, desire and clear expectations, and monitors results. Remember, monitor results, diagnose and adapt your leadership accordingly, and be patient – change takes time! Process performance is the payoff; leadership is the lever.

About the author:
Mike Aroney holds advanced degrees in organizational psychology, adult dducation, and business administration, and is a principal consultant with Life Cycle Engineering specializing in change management, business process re-engineering, work control, and implementation of information management systems. Mike has led major business process re-engineering efforts in support of enterprise resource planning implementations using People Soft, Lawson and SAP applications for two global organizations with 21,000 and 36,000 end-users. Mike’s approach to change management has resulted in significant changes to corporate cultures that sustain the performance improvements enabled through Reliability Excellence process integration. These strategies include training, communication, balanced scorecard performance measures, rapid improvement events, leadership coaching and mentoring, and organization redesign. He joined Life Cycle Engineering as a deputy director and principal consultant in 2000. For more information, visit or call 843-744-7110.

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