What Process Excellence Looks Like In 2020

There are good reasons for believing that process excellence is moving increasingly centre stage, and that this will continue. What does this mean for the enterprise? What does process excellence look like in 2020?

As the old saw has it, it’s difficult to make predictions, and especially about the future. But here’s my take on what will be mainstream when Tokyo next hosts the Olympics.

Every enterprise will have what we might call a ‘cortex’. However it’s known – as the Business Management System or the Business Operating System or the Enterprise QMS, whatever – it will be universal in its scope. It will be how the organization understands itself, how it senses and responds, how it learns.

This cortex will describe every aspect of the enterprise at every level, whether it’s in-house or outsourced, and in a way that everyone can understand. It will be visual and intuitive, leveraging the language of process.

This won’t be just a basic lingua franca.  Right now, most transformation and improvement work relies upon the equivalent of semaphore. We’re moving towards a simplified pidgin. By 2020, we will have developed a rich universal language, still rooted in processes but capable of describing every aspect of the real-time organization in an accessible way that ensures appropriate participation in every aspect of organizational change.

The cortex will be underpinned by a process management platform, which will provide a collaborative framework for managing change and continuous improvement, as well as all the governance required for risk management and compliance.  The process management platform connects it all up; it’s the organization’s central nervous system.

Many of the operations of the enterprise will be automated, some delivered by robots or other autonomic systems within a ubiquitous internet of things. But even when automation becomes this extensive, there’s still a useful distinction between process management and automation. The process management platform will continue to sit above the automated world, providing the holistic perspectives that enable all the stakeholders involved to collaborate on designing and delivering change.

The cortex and its central nervous system, the process management platform, will be corporate consciousness. And process excellence will be the business of developing this consciousness and, in particular, developing organizational intelligence.

Mainstream process management platforms of 2020 will be distinguished in two ways:

(1) Engagement.  Since it all hinges on the enterprise embracing process, everything about process has to be so natural – personalised, intuitive, reliable, easy – that it’s always the lingua franca for training, collaboration and continuous improvement across the entire enterprise [even when the chips are down].

For the platform vendors, this is a huge challenge. It’s set to become a great deal harder as every activity of the enterprise becomes more social, more mobile, more fast-paced, more global, more multi-sourced, more automated and appy, more driven by real-time analytics and risk management.  Their quest for engagement will draw heavily on gamification [its serious side; not mash-ups of SOX and GTA5…].

(2) Governance. Mainstream process management platforms in 2020 won’t just crack complexity to ensure engagement. They will enable success in fast-moving operating environments which will typically be far more regulated, where compliance demands will be more extensive. It won’t be just regulatory pressure or product quality or the demands of rapid innovation either. Expectations in corporate social responsibility and sustainability are going to be far higher, and more extensive, and the costs of failure potentially catastrophic. The compliance overhead could be colossal so governance will need to be as light as possible, especially for the key stakeholders, without ever compromising compliance.

The process management platforms that are thriving in 2020 will have pulled off the trick of enabling agility while also ensuring compliance.

It’s a huge change, of course.  While platforms are essential, they are just enablers. Success in 2020 will require new levels of organizational maturity, above all, the capability to learn and adapt rapidly and intelligently. Many organizations won’t make it. We’re going to need new methodologies that draw upon the best of Lean, Six Sigma and other quality and process improvement approaches – and add in the insights of nudge theory and choice architectures.

It’s exciting. As I’ve said before, I think we’re in a pupa stage. We’re living in a rapidly transforming world, with huge changes to come. But we’re building a butterfly and it has a moral purpose. Here’s just three examples of how process excellence matters to humankind:

It’s key to avoiding our enormous waste of resources on failed transformation projects with near-zero benefits (highlighted most recently in this article in yesterday’s FT)

It’s the key to delivering what the West takes for granted to the majority of humanity who currently don’t have access to it – affordable heart surgery, for instance (the case for standardization and efficiency is superbly set out by cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Prasad Shetty here)

NGOs and Governments need efficiency and effectiveness just as much as, probably more than, global corporations (a great example, via PEX Network, is this World Vision case study).

Looking for one last time into my 2020 crystal ball, I think I can see…wait for it.. the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics!  Goodness me! Great Britain has topped the medal table again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s