Tag archives for Culture

BPM Status and Learnings

Business process management (BPM) has not yet matured enough to be promoting best-practices or featuring large clear success stories. Still, BPM holds huge promise. It shows no signs of going away and process pundits are giving it increasingly serious consideration.  In general, the status is hopeful or that it might be starting to stabilize and mature. Companies with significant process challenges should stay closely tuned.

BPM has a lingering identity issue. Most business performance topics fall predominantly into one of the elements of the people-process-technology frame of reference, but BPM is all over. BPM has process in its name, but more than most topics, it resists clean classification.  Maybe that’s the nature of BPM as a relatively new topic, and this contributes to the identity issue because it sometimes tends to look like all things to all people.

Learnings:

  1. BPM does not absolve a business from needing to have a solid process discipline. The fundamental questions of process ownership and challenges of crossing organizational boundaries become more visible and still have to be addressed. Without enlightened leadership, BPM (or really any change initiative) might not even start, or the results will be constrained. This is tied to the concerns for BPM’s cultural fit, and how an adoption program should be approached. Certainly there are many implications behind process ownership, but the more telling or insightful question might be who owns the BPM adoption program.
  2. BPM requires extraordinarily robust communications to manage all the process content.  Here implied is one of the reasons business people don’t really want to manage capture of the processes. But neither can it be left solely to IT following the BPMN software-definition language. (BPMN is rigorous but too technical for most). Communications is a prime example of where business-IT fusion is needed to get down to the reality of work flow between desks and machines, handling exceptions, and gaining team understanding and agreement.  Delivering on communications is necessary and good, but beware the tendency some have shown to think of BPM as “just a documentation tool”.
  3. BPM needs to be interrelated with businesses’ core improvement/change initiatives.  In the end, just as it is with fundamental process discipline, it comes down to quality-oriented fundamentals and practices to address variability and handle never ending change. Here it is suggested to promote pro-activity and flexibility with eyes open because BPM will not be neutral with regard to lean, six sigma/DFSS, agile software development practices, the business model at large, the basic quest for innovation, promotion of desired cultural characteristics, performance metrics, other reference models, etc.
  4. BPM requires dedication of skilled people that can represent and facilitate the business and strategy.  While everybody needs to know how they support and tie to the strategy, this takes on important deeper dimension for those who are core to BPM.  Certainly these are people that can be instrumental and leading and entrusted with regard to points 1, 2 and 3 above, while simultaneously having  solid appreciation for the IT implications.

A holistic view of BPM suggests it should be a clear reliable path for keeping strategy aligned with the design and support structure of the business. However, BPM now needs to get beyond the old impasse, where C-level executives aren’t seeing the level and surety of results to invest, while results aren’t being achieved because the investment isn’t there.  To achieve the potential, there will need to be better ownership of BPM by the people running the business.  And this probably won’t happen without acknowledgement that things haven’t worked or need to work substantially better.

While there is some uber logic to the ordering of these learnings/observations/opinions, it seems most practical to start with assuring the right people.  In other words, points 1, 2, and 3 will require a core set of people to get meaningfully started. If you are committed and starting or if you simply want to do the diligence, you can hardly go wrong by retaining the right BPM-skilled/aware people since they will always be a tremendous resource.

Process is the Blood of Business Performance

We’ve all heard that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. Even more basically, you can’t measure what doesn’t exist. Not everyone is in a bloody process mess, but in cases where you hear “we don’t really have a process” the key word is really. If they are delivering a product or service, they have at least the essence of a process. Processes might not be formal or agreed or understood, which in turn makes them susceptible to waste and variation and manipulation, but they get manage to get things delivered. All things considered, such a situation usually provides no real basis for improvement, it is more a definitional exercise, and might best benefit from something like DFSS. Companies might need a blood test if up to now they were freely growing up and not worrying about processes, if they are made up of companies that have been merged together or otherwise “re-engineered”, if they come to find their efforts more subjected to compliance and complexity, or if they have reached a performance ceiling.

It’s never been productive, and today it’s evermore untenable, to be stuck speculating about what could be done and should be done versus what’s said to be done and what is actually done. But it happens – quite a bit. Companies get stuck in such a rut and are hard pressed to get out. Like plaque in the blood stream, it’s hard to clean up even if you know it is there. And why is that? The short answer has to do with the need for the blood system (process) to work in conjunction with the nervous system (rules) as attached to the brain (strategy-goals-objectives), all of which is affected by DNA (culture), and ultimately the soul (individual behaviors), which in total reflects and sustains meaningful life (operational capabilities).

So let me slow down here before I get my blood pressure up. Please don’t get me wrong on ideas like collaboration and refinement. It’s more than okay, it’s necessary to speculate and think deeply about process. But such thinking must be characterized by movement toward closure and readiness to assume associated responsibility. Apply the tourniquet. Beware of sending process off to committee. Processes and process ownership cannot be sacred cows – they are too important to health.

Theoretically, the company (the body) owns the processes (the blood). But process is an easy target. Everybody knows the blood is in there and for whatever reasons, could try to draw it. This does not usually work and is not advised. Processes are an element of the business architecture that also need some applied ownership. The rightly skilled people need to be entrusted with the right degree of formalized ownership. To keep efforts vital and unconstrained (“disease free”), process ownership should include: 1) the associated process performance ownership – not just a determination of what needs to be done; 2) real experts – either directly or through defined direct communication mechanisms; and 3) a clear defined path to influence (and in some cases control) the interdependent architectural elements (such as policy/rules) and fundamental enablers (such as leadership and IT).

Of course, processes represent precious intellectual property that must be protected – it is lifeblood.

Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Quality Deployment via the Business Blueprint

Quality deployment is both a challenge and an opportunity. Prime among the challenges: getting beyond tactical reactionary approaches and establishing a clear role and expectations for Quality. Quality represents a proven powerful opportunity, at a time when cost cutting options might be exhausted, even as performance expectations continue to rise.

image by tungphoto

The importance of quality has always been acknowledged. A high percentage of businesses  reference quality directly in their strategies. Sometimes it’s little more than intuition that places quality at the center of many company value propositions – quality at the affordable price.  It becomes consuming for  companies if they experience the the effects of poor quality – it takes the form of crippling high costs and damage to reputation and image. All companies are susceptible.

So, who can argue with quality? An isn’t this what the customers want to hear? Following are answers to these rhetorical questions that might be insightful, and  recommendations of how to realize the real and strategic value that is available through progressive quality deployment. …click here to read more