A Litmus Test For Process Craft

iStock_000016024702SmallIn a review with a global organization last week, the client explained how a major change program affecting sites around the world had ignored the defined processes:

“We just had to get on with closing down the [locations], we couldn’t follow the process.  It would delay us. We had very aggressive timescales. We just had to use common sense.”

It’s a litmus test.  When the chips are down, when business transformation is unfolding at pace, do people follow the process? Or do they use ‘common sense’ with all the risks that entails?

Making sure that process is simply the easiest way to do things, and thereby quietly embedding process discipline within the organization, is at the heart of this craft.

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21 Mar 2013   Process Excellence: What’s To Be Done?

19 Mar 2013   The Risks In Social Without Governance

© Text Michael Gammage 2013

When Process Precision Saves Children’s Lives

1343374839_gosh-logoIf your CEO is lukewarm on process excellence, invite her to watch How To Avoid Mistakes In Surgery, from the BBC Horizon team, in which consultant anaesthetist Kevin Fong explores what, in the corporate context, would be called performance improvement initiatives – within and beyond the operating theatre.

A collaboration between London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital For Children and the McLaren and Ferrari Formula One racing teams perfectly illustrates the power of process precision.

Relaxing in a staff room after completing a 12-hour emergency transplant operation, two doctors watched a Formula One race. What they saw led to a collaboration that has saved lives.

After open heart surgery, the patient must be transferred from the operating theatre to the Intensive Care Unit.  It is a huge and complex set of time-critical tasks. It can take 30 minutes after the surgeons have completed their work and left just to unplug all the wires and tubes from a patient, ready for transfer to the ICU.

Great Ormond Street’s head ICU doctor, Allan Goldman, and heart surgeon, Professor Martin Elliott, observed that when a Formula One car pulls into the pit stop, a 20-member crew can change the car’s tyres, fill it with fuel, clear the air intakes and send it off in seven seconds in a way that is coordinated, efficient and safe – in a perilous environment.

And so began a collaboration that resulted in a major restructuring of patient handover from theatre to the ICU.  It involved adopting a new protocol, better training and rehearsals.  It made clear who was the leader throughout the process (the anaesthetist); provided a step-by-step checklist covering each stage of the handover process; and included a diagram of the patient surrounded by the staff so that everyone knew their exact position as well as their precise task.

The result of precision and visualization in executing this handover was stunning (it’s reported here). It has reduced by 40% the human errors in this critical transfer, saving lives and complications.

In a sense, it’s nothing new.  Professor Atul Gawande has shown conclusively how simple checklists can reduce deaths and complications in surgery by around 30% (which is an even more extraordinary figure than it seems because it varied very little between hospitals, whether they were in the USA or Kenya or India).

Commenting on the improvements at Great Ormond Street, Nigel Stepney from Ferrari noted that:

“It’s not about having the best people and just putting them together. It’s about a group of people who can work as a team.”

Which echoes one of Professor Gawande’s themes in The Checklist Manifesto. It’s easy to think that precision and visualization are important just to compensate for human fallibility.  But, actually, process precision – which usually hinges upon process visualization – is even more valuable because it enables teams in complex situations to work together more effectively.  Process precision underpins effective collaboration.

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22 Feb 2012   Hello Checklists, Goodbye Process?

© Text Michael Gammage 2013

Process Excellence: What’s To Be Done?

The PEX Week Europe survey results, just published, make for surprisingly gloomy reading. There seems to be something badly adrift in the world of Process Excellence.

Almost 1,000 ‘process professionals’ were surveyed last month. The single most worrying chart shows perceptions of process improvement in their organizations:

11.7% said that their process excellence program was either at risk or had already been dismantled (up from 5.7% in 2011)

15% said that process improvement was experiencing declining returns in their organization

17% reported that effort and interest in process improvement has peaked.

Which is surprising. My own take is that continuous improvement is very much part of the zeitgeist in the CxO suite, and that process excellence is becoming more widely understood as the other side of that coin.  So why do ‘process professionals’ seem so downbeat?

It could be simply a European problem, but I suspect not.  More likely perhaps is that many organizations hugely over-invested in Lean and Six Sigma programmes that failed to deliver. They failed to some extent, of course, because they were wildly over-sold.  But many of today’s ‘process professionals’ might looking back nostalgically at those heady days.

It is plainly ridiculous that process excellence should be getting such a bad press. So what’s to be done?

At the risk of your groans at this point, here’s some reasons why I see the enterprise process management platform as the missing piece in this jigsaw:

It links process improvement with top level business strategy.  It addresses directly the single biggest process excellence challenge reported in the PEX survey. It provides direct line of sight between the operating model and the operational processes.

It ensures sustainable improvement, the second biggest challenge reported in the survey. An enterprise process management platform allows a pipeline of improvement projects to be identified, analysed, designed and delivered – in collaboration with the business. So there’s engagement and adoption: cost cuts stick and there’s no organizational snapback after change.

It gives meaning to metrics.  A third of survey respondents reported that “My organization measures so many metrics that it’s difficult to know which ones are important”.  Define KPIs as leading indicators of the health of the end-to-end processes and they have context. Even better, when a traffic light goes red, I can see immediately what’s upstream, what’s downstream and who are the stakeholders: I can start to fix it quicker.

And, if that wasn’t enough, it allows risks and controls to be embedded and managed within the context of the operational processes, so compliance and risk management is easier – which will get the attention of the CFO at least and so address another reported challenge: the lack of executive buy-in.

With an enterprise process management platform in place, ‘process professionals’ can do what they do best.  And feel loved again.

Related Posts

21 Feb 2013   When Process Standardization Backfires

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© Text Michael Gammage 2013

The Risks In Social Without Governance

RadarIf I were a Chief Risk Officer, I’d definitely have social on my radar.

There’s a huge enthusiasm for collaboration and a fascination with the tools and platforms that enable it. The ‘Shareconomy’ was voted the keynote theme at the world’s biggest trade fair, CeBIT, this month.

Which is great. Essential and exciting in fact. But midst the revolutionary fervour, it’s easy to overlook governance. Not completely, of course, but to allow roles, responsibilities and accountability to blur in the excitement; to relax rigour in the quest for agility; and to permit a cultural slide into ‘governance-lite’ as the new default.

Unleash social without a complete and joined-up model of the enterprise – one that is owned and embraced by the business – and it’s the stuff of CRO nightmares. Without the right process management platform in place, it’s not just easier to incubate a black swan, it’s quicker.

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15 March 2013 Future BPM: The Enterprise Platform

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© Text Michael Gammage 2013

Social Business: It’s Culture First

Spotted in a client meeting room. One of several similarly challenging messages randomly posted around the room, each one as refreshingly vibrant.

imag0190 -cropped

A neat reminder that social business may be enabled by technology but attitudes and behaviours matter more. It’s culture that distinguishes truly collaborative organizations.

PS This is the norm apparently across this global organization (and it’s in what most would see as a rather conservative industry). I would love to give the credit that’s due, if someone can give me permission…

Future BPM – The Enterprise Platform

iStock_000023250571SmallI’ve argued previously that sustainable success in complex global enterprises depends upon effective collaboration, and that process is the language that best enables it. I’ve also argued that BPMN is out of the running as a universal business language, and proposed three questions we should ask in assessing alternatives.

The right language is vitally necessary but it’s not sufficient. Traditionally, we say it needs to be supported by a tool. I want to make the case here that the real value comes when it is supported a process management platform.

Tool, platform – what’s the difference?

Here’s ten ways we can know an enterprise process management platform when we see one:

  1. It is the single source of truth. It goes beyond defining what we do and how we do it. It defines as well roles, responsibilities and accountability.
  2. It integrates processes with documents, systems, metrics and training to deliver content that is personalised, intuitive and valuable to every desktop and mobile device.
  3. It makes it easy for users to feed back improvement ideas to process owners and stakeholders, to get engaged in continuous improvement.
  4. It recognizes the need for variants and seamlessly manages them behind the scenes. It allows global processes to be designed and managed in English (for instance) but displayed to the user in their chosen language. It manages the ongoing optimization of the variants to a global process necessary to meet local requirements.
  5. It is the framework for performance management. It integrates processes with metrics and analytics. It overlays processes with metadata, hidden to most users, with analytical features and reporting that allow process stakeholders and Op Ex and Lean Sigma teams to collaborate on change. It underpins every CxO dashboard.
  6. It is the framework for change management. Recognizing that almost every proposed change has ripples, with implications for other groups across and outside of the enterprise, all business change is managed through it.
  7. It bridges the IT:Business divide. It engages business and IT in a rich ongoing dialogue.
  8. It is the enterprise QMS. It enables risks, controls and compliance to be embedded and managed within the end-to-end operational processes.
  9. It provides all this within one unified governance framework that is robust enough to meet every compliance requirement yet also automated and intuitive enough to be easy to use.
  10. It is a chameleon. It can be stand-alone, or it can invisibly and intelligently integrate with other collaboration and social platforms, and any other systems, as required.

An enterprise BPM platform of this kind provides direct line of sight between strategy and reality. It links the operating model directly with the operational processes. It reduces the risk in every business transformation, from acquisition integration to major IT programmes. It embeds a culture of continuous innovation and sustainable improvement. And the Chief Risk Officer sleeps easier at night.

The stakes are high. This is an enormously valuable prize. There’s a race on to deliver it. Exciting times.

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01 Mar 2013 Why Are So Many IT Projects Successful?

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© Text Michael Gammage 2013

BPM And The Language Of Process

iStock_000023250571SmallThere’s a ferment of ideas about the meaning and future – even the very existence – of Business Process Management (BPM).

Side-stepping those impassioned debates, I want to offer what seem to me to be some simple truths.

Every successful organization – every sustainable success – is built upon effective collaboration.  That may sound fluffy. But we can see all around us the failed projects, the waste and the missed opportunities whose root cause is ineffective collaboration.  And its consequences will escalate in a future that is faster-paced, more loosely structured and multisourced, more intricately automated – and more regulated.

Effective collaboration requires many things – vision, teamwork, leadership and so on. But it’s also true that any rich and productive dialogue – any effective collaboration – depends upon a common language. Process is that common language.

It’s the language of process that best enables effective collaboration between all the stakeholders, across functional silos, cultures and organizational boundaries.

But which process language?

The vision of the BPM pioneers was that BPMN could be the universal process language. “Don’t bridge the business-IT divide. Obliterate it!” was the rallying cry. In the long run, it’s the right direction. Re-reading ‘The Third Wave’ ten years on, it’s visionary but still essentially sound.

But BPMN hasn’t worked out in practice. It’s a stretch too far for most business people. For the foreseeable future, there’s no single process language that can fully reconcile the vital need of the business for a common collaborative language with the equally vital IT need for the rigour required to build applications.

BPMN looks set to progress – it’s a valuable standard from the IT perspective – but it has to be a generation at least before it could hope to realize its vision and become the universal process language.

If not BPMN, then what?  It seems to me that are three sets of questions to ask in defining the process language that best enables effective collaboration:

Is it visual and intuitive? Does it fully harness the power of visualization? In a hundredth of a second, we can scan an image and understand what it would have taken a hundred words to communicate.

Does it support real work? Languages die out if they are not useful.  It has to be rich, engaging and valuable. It must enrich understanding at every level, from the operating model down to the factory line or call centre, from Finance to IT and Logistics.

Does it enable sustainable innovation? Is it easy for users to feed back improvement ideas to process owners? Is it easy for process owners and stakeholders to collaborate on the design and implementation of change?

Note that IT is not left out in the cold here. IT may use BPMN for systems development but a universal process language that delivers in these three ways has huge benefits to IT as well.  It’s the business engagement that every CIO craves and the perfect framework for requirements capture.

Effective collaboration matters, and it requires a rich common language. Process is that language. Its force multiplier is something I’ll have to pick up next time.

Related Posts

25 Feb 2013    The Hidden Costs Of ‘Normal’ Process Management

28 Aug 2012    The ROI On Process Visualization

© Text Michael Gammage 2013