BPM-D Launch

Value-Driven BPMThe European launch of the latest version of Peter Franz and Mathias Kirchmer’s BPM-D framework in London yesterday had an intriguing warm-up before the jazz and canapes: a client executive workshop. Compressed from two days to an afternoon, it was pretty intense but well received. You have to wish them well because they are trying to do something important: to “change the conversation about Business Process Management (BPM)”.

Their start point, their mantra, is value-driven BPM. So everyone involved should be able to articulate how any BPM initiative links to the value drivers of the organization.  Which sounds blindingly obvious but, as we all know, it’s often not the case.  As a Big 4 consultant in the workshop put it: “So many times organizations say: ‘OK, so we’ve built our process repository. Now what?'”.

Peter’s example at this point – it’s in the book he co-authored with Mathias while they were both senior execs at Accenture – was a consumer goods company which created 600 high-quality process models describing its entire business. But only one person had accessed it in a month. It’s far from unusual. The most jaw-dropping I ever heard was a Telco process leader’s remark at a BPM conference that the enterprise repository which his 40-strong team had created was known internally as ‘the world’s largest write-only repository’.

So BPM-D provides coaching for BPM practitioners on how they can make their work far more valuable to their organization. Not just by focussing on adding strategic value but also in the way which they work more effectively with sponsors and stakeholders.  The D in BPM-D (it stands for Discipline) translates this into tools and techniques to make it happen step-by-step, from high-level BPM Capability Assessment exercises, through methods for surfacing the issues and ensuring alignment in the trade-offs over process variants, to assessment criteria for a BPM Centre of Excellence.

The BPM-D thesis is that value-driven BPM will emerge as a pillar in creating the Next Generation Enterprise. BPM, done properly, they are arguing, is headed for the C-Suite. It’s the capability ‘to move good ideas into action faster and at lower risk’.  I think they’re on the right track – and yesterday’s PEX interview with the newly-appointed Chief Process Officer at Xerox is surely a straw in the wind.

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Scaling Up Excellence

How’s your process excellence initiative going? Frustration and confusion everywhere, pummelled by unpredictable and unpleasant events, the stench of failure in the air?  So far so good, then. That’s according to Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao, Stanford professors whose research convinces them that ‘organizations that scale well are filled with people who talk and act as if they are in the middle of a manageable mess’.

Scaling is fraught with risks and uncertainties. Even the best leaders and teams recognise that muddling through can be inevitable, sometimes for months, while searching for the best way forward. Scaling stars have grit. ‘It’s not simply a marathon. It’s like running a long race where you don’t know the right path, often what seems like the right path turns out to be the wrong one, and you don’t know how long the race will last, where or how it will end, or where the finish line is located’.

It’s refreshingly candid advice, and Scaling Up Excellence is full of it.  On a seven year journey that started with a Stanford management education program on ‘Customer-Focused Innovation’, Sutton and Rao set out to explore The Problem of More:

“Executives could always point to pockets in their organizations where people were doing a great job of uncovering and meeting customer needs. There was always some excellence – there just wasn’t enough of it. What drove them crazy, kept them up at night, and devoured their weekdays was the difficulty of spreading that excellence to more people and more places. They also emphasized that the Problem of More (which they often called “scaling” or “scaling up”) wasn’t limited to building customer-focused organizations; it was a barrier to spreading excellence of every stripe.”

Scaling Up Excellence is a thoughtful, easy-to-read and intensely practical book about successful business transformation and innovation: how to start it, lead it, nurture it and sustain it. Continue reading

Sustainable Process Excellence? Hire A Showman

iStock_000019789823SmallMichael Fauscette has been setting out why, in the information age, making better decisions will drive the development of new operating models. It’s about moving, he has argued, from “make – sell” to “sense – respond” models which can leverage smart data (right information, right context, right person, right time and in a way that enables them to make the best decision).

Most recently, he’s looked at how you translate these ideas into reality. How would a business actually go about setting up and supporting both the culture and the technology infrastructure to support a “sense – respond” model? His answers (in full here) look at people, culture, process and tools.

As an aside, his observations re-confirm that enabling effective collaboration among all those involved in the design, approval and implementation of change requires a common language (which really has to be process, for reasons outlined here) and a common governance framework (which has to be a process management platform of some kind, for reasons set out here).

This stuff was high value anyway. In a more automated and decentralized world where agility, creativity and innovation are prized, a common language and a common governance framework for managing change are going to be vital. As in survival issues in the long run.

But he talks too – and this is really my point – about the increasingly strategic value of the content manager in a world where ‘information-sharing is power’, within the enterprise at least:

“In the old industrial model knowledge was considered a power base but in today’s connected and information overloaded environment that’s not practical or productive. Sharing information is the new power base. Content curators are essential to keeping the information flowing and helping it get to the right place in the organization.”

Which fits with my experience. Too often those responsible for building and maintaining a corporate process management platform (the ‘Process Center of Excellence Team’) see themselves as archivists and librarians (ie recorders of what should happen) rather than as real-time content curators and publishers (ie architects and advocates of a better way of working).

Now it’s true that many Process Centre of Excellence teams feel forced into a passive role by the low expectations of their peers and leaders. But without ongoing and imaginative promotion of the vision, without a continuing and creative focus on enhancing the user experience, without design thinking, energy levels drop and things go slowly downhill until… all you’re left with is just another rear-view quality system.

We’ve all seen it so many times.  People focus on tools and methodologies but sustainable success in building an enterprise platform for process excellence depends equally on pzazz and subtle showmanship.

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Goobledegook And The Bottom Line

ChaosThere’s a parable for our times over on the FT. It’s a story about the real-life rebellion of a senior director who refused to approve a new IT system because he had “not understood a word” of the presentation to the board. Initially the lone dissenting voice in the room, his fellow board members eventually admitted that they had not really understood the project either, which had been explained in “baffling goobledegook”.

In this particular re-enactment of Twelve Angry Men, no innocent man was saved from the gallows but the board did go on to demand that the CIO come back after translating the plans into plain English. As the author Gillian Tett notes, it’s a story that should challenge us all:

“For when we look back at 2013, one of the big themes was the regularity with which computing systems produced costly glitches.”

There’s been a lot written on IT failures and their impact, which can be devastatingly expensive. The evidence points overwhelmingly to poor communication as the most common root cause. Between all the stakeholders, but most critically between IT and the business. Successful IT project teams, as McKinsey has noted, continually engage with stakeholders – at all levels, internally and externally – within a rigorous governance framework for managing change.

What happens most often of course is that the board blindly nods the project through. But this isn’t just a problem of poor communication at board level.  At every level, there’s often a stilted and meagre dialogue running between IT and the business, increasing risk and undermining business benefits. And it’s mostly hidden in plain sight just because expectations are so low.  Caring too much about clarity and accountability can even be career-limiting.

How then do we fix this? Continue reading

Whoops, Another Iceberg

iStock_000016216188SmallLunch with an exasperated friend, recently appointed Head of Finance Transformation at a well-known corporate.

“Everywhere I look, I see icebergs looming’, he explained. ‘There are three major systems implementations under way.  There is an offshoring program, and an outsourcing initiative. But there’s no shared visibility of the big picture. Everyone is busying away in their silo, focussed on their deliverables, making sure that blame for the expected failures can’t be laid at their door.”

“They’ve come to think that bumping into icebergs, and losing a few ships entirely, is normal. Bang. Whoops, another program sunk and lost.  Ah well, at least they can’t pin it on me…”

The alarming truth is that organizational insouciance about effective collaboration is not uncommon.  It has to be a root cause of the colossal costs of IT project failures, for instance.

How can it be possible, you might reasonably ask, that organizations can waste so much so easily? Isn’t it totally obvious that effective collaboration in complex global enterprises demands a common language, holistic perspectives and robust governance? Isn’t it staring us in the face that a casual attitude to process management isn’t just a huge waste (and the gift that keeps on giving as far as some consultants are concerned) – it’s also a huge compliance risk?

You might have thought so. But, for some organizations at least, the evidence suggests otherwise.  It can take a lot of icebergs to make a burning platform.

Somewhere an entrepreneur must be putting the finishing touches to a watertight measure of an organization’s process maturity. An index which investors and ratings agencies will come to expect to see in any audited statements. Level 1 might be competence in spotting icebergs.

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Soulful Operational Excellence

iStock_000023558527LargeIf Operational Excellence (OpEx) and Lean Sigma are too often associated with a sense of heartless oppression, what would be soulful OpEx be? Is there a recipe for a wholegrain honest-to-goodness OpEx that everyone can believe in?

I think so – and there’s a step that we could take to nudge it to become the new normal.

There’s a wide spectrum of definitions of Operational Excellence. Some are crude, defined simply in terms of resource efficiency and its impact on the bottom line. Others seem ethereal.  But many start by acknowledging that people aren’t simply just another resource, and that the means matter just as much as the ends. Continue reading

The Process Team Quietly Demolishing Silos

iStock_000002428072XSmallA shout out, on behalf of stockholders, for all the unsung heroes in process excellence.

This is the story of one:  the Head of Process Excellence in a global organization on a 7-year transformation program after rapid growth through acquisition. One of its strategic goals is to break down the silos and ensure more effective collaboration.

In his role as the final QA, my friend is under huge pressure to sign off the To-Be processes. But he’s refusing because there’s fog where there should be a clear line of sight.  The Global Process Owners are content within their silos and happy to fudge. They don’t welcome the clarity that will embed the changes.

It’s tough. In many circumstances, it could be career-limiting.  My friend has executive support, for now at least.  But there’s a lot of flak, with accusations flying of a major re-organization being obstructed by ‘process nerds who think their maps are more important’.

That’s process leadership.

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