How Empowering Your Employees Supports Process Improvement

How Empowering Your Employees Supports Process Improvement

I spoke to Jason Kayzar, who is the COO PhishLine, a complete social engineering management platform built for Information Security Professionals. They help Fortune 1000 clients counter social engineering threats with risk-based precision, centered on taking action. Before joining PhishLine, he served as President and Director of National Accounts for MC2. In the following brief interview, Kayzar talks about how he defines process improvement, his approach to operations, biggest challenges and more.

Dan Schawbel: How would you define process improvement, and its importance to your business?

Jason Kayzar: We have a somewhat unique business in that we are a data analytics company, but that data is driven and measured by social interactions. With regard to process improvement (PI), we have two separate drivers: how do we improve the digital/data processes and programs and how do we improve the human experience? We can improve the data to the point that only a highly-skilled IT operative can decipher results, but that is counter to our objective. When we look to optimize our processes, we first look “under the hood” to determine how best to adjust the code within the software to deliver more efficient results. Then we look at how that adjustment affects the end user – whether it’s our employees, our customers or someone on the receiving end of one of our Security Awareness campaigns.

News of security breaches has become commonplace, and hackers and criminals are changing their tactics daily. Our job is to help companies educate their employees and protect their assets. It is critical that we are focused on PI daily, and most of the time, hourly. If a shoe store forgets to order a particular size of shoe, they may inconvenience a customer or two over a week until they get the replacement order placed.  If we forget to follow a procedure, it could affect hundreds of thousands of users on that day. Therefore, PI is at the forefront of everything we do, every minute of every day.

Schawbel: How do you approach process improvement within your organization?

Kayzar: Empowerment. I have worked in a number of traditional office environments where democratic rule by committee took the place of leadership. In some ways this can be a good process, especially if the goal is one of making everyone feel good but more often than not it slows the process and/or can lead to decision paralysis. Our business moves at light speed, and is growing in size and scope accordingly. Our people are smart, and therefore they are empowered to make many of the PI decisions on a daily basis that help move us closer to achieving our overall goals. We have an internal suggestion process within our software, so all ideas are captured, catalogued and can be reviewed by any employee at any time. There are no bad ideas. Many may be rejected, or added to a future projects list while many others are often implemented immediately.

Schawbel: What are the biggest challenges you have from a tools / systems perspective to support process improvement?

Kayzar: Time. If we could stop time, we could act on every improvement and implement and refine every process we’ve ever imagined.  Unfortunately, time stops for no one, so we are always challenged to find the time to step aside from the day to day to work within the business. We have been continually growing our staff as well as contracting for things that fall outside the scope of our daily focus, in order to stay squarely concentrated on our mission.

When we need a tool to manage or improve a process, we have the ability to create our own software modules, so we have a very unique advantage over many other types of business.

Schawbel: How do you allocate resources / personnel to support process improvement?

Kayzar: Communication. Things change very rapidly in the world of data, so we are constantly communicating. Employee to employee, employee to customer, department to department and to the company as a whole. Everyone has more than enough responsibilities every day, so being able to turn on a dime is critical. PI is a part of everyone’s mindset throughout every day, but if we find an immediate need to address something, we can quickly assess and allocate available resources without affecting internal or external customer expectations. Every one of our employees understands that flexibility is mission critical, and I believe that the constant challenge of PI is one of the reasons that our employees (and customers) are drawn to Phishline.

Schawbel: What strategies have you found most valuable to overcome those challenges?

Kayzar: Collaboration. There is an underlying foundation of trust among all of our employees. If any employee was unable to perform their job today, we have multiple people that could step in and get things done. There is no hierarchy with regard to competence, we are all here to serve the same purpose. That is not to say that I can write code like our President, or manage the sales team like our VP of Sales, but I can pitch in at a moment’s notice if needed in order to deliver a consistent product and experience.

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