Escaping SOP Madness

Torque Management - TPSoP Case StudyHats off to Dee Carri, founder of Torque Management and creator of the TPSoP®, a methodology for translating the typical corporate rainforest of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) into visual processes – with sufficient rigour to satisfy the regulatory demands of Life Sciences.

The first case study of TPSoP in action – in a global biotechnology company – is just published (here). It’s a report on a pilot, and the metrics are understandably thin, but it’s the first published proof that the TPSoP methodology can deliver in the real world.

The idea of translating impenetrable thickets of SOPs into useful information that people can engage with is not new. Simplification has been on the strategic agenda for some time – especially in Life Sciences (as I’ve noted before) – and Novartis was making presentations on this theme back in 2011.

What’s different about TPSoP is its rigour. It has built upon the experience of those pioneering projects to create a comprehensive and robust methodology – the results of which we are now seeing proven in practice.

I remember talking with Dee two years ago, when she explained that she’d taken a back seat in the day-to-day operations of her consulting business to create the space to build the foundation for a more complete and watertight approach to ridding the world of SOPs. She’d just emerged, she claimed, from two months in the shed at the end of her garden. Which sounded admirably mad but then most breakthroughs do at first…

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28 Aug 2012   The ROI On Process Visualization

24 Jan 2012    Goodbye To The SOP As A 50-Page Word Document

Process Excellence in a Quantum World

ChaosIf, like me, you left yesterday’s FCB webinar on continuous IT delivery – which looked at how companies like Google and Amazon are able to achieve hundreds of software releases every day – you too may have been struck to read the headline that the UK bank RBS has now been hit with a $88m regulatory fine (to add to the $196m in compensation and other costs of clearing up) after a simple IT mistake led to a major failure in its retail banking systems.

It’s a paradox – and I‘m seeing them everywhere at the moment.

I’ve talked this month with two organizations, both undergoing significant transformation programmes and both believing that they take process excellence seriously. But, in both cases, all process modelling is project-based. Neither of them have any kind of enterprise platform for process management; neither of them have a persisting, end-to-end visualization of how everything fits together, let alone a governance framework to support effective collaboration on improvements. Both re-invent the process wheel for every project. And both are recovering from major transformation failures.

I talked with another global organization, which has been trying to build an enterprise-wide process repository for more than five years. There’s plenty of process content in their repository, but none of it is approved. The process leader explained that there have been many iterations of each process, all created by the process excellence team. But without executive sponsorship or a governance framework fit for purpose, process ownership and accountabilities remain unclear; so no process has ever been agreed and signed off. And this organization is about to launch a global ERP upgrade.

I’m seeing it as symptoms of a problematic transition from Newtonian thinking to the quantum world of the next generation enterprise, characterized in part by:

Devolved Responsibility. Across every industry, and often quite rapidly, we are morphing command and control hierarchies into team-based structures with devolved responsibilities.

Experimentation. We are shifting from the classic change management paradigm of ‘unfreeze-change-freeze’ towards team-based experimental approaches at the front line, and in real time.

It’s all good – clockwork certainty only goes so far – but I also think that our standard model will continue to have process management at its core – in the sense of a platform that allows end-to-end process to serve as the universal language for the enterprise, enabling effective collaboration and so delivering agility, innovation and continuous improvement, all within a robust governance framework.

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04 Nov 2014   The Art Of Navigating Cross Currents

02 Oct 2014   Process Excellence Is Dead. Long Live Continuous Innovation!

 

Process Excellence Is Dead. Long Live Continuous Innovation!

Brad Power has been championing ‘continuous innovation’ as the best description of the strategic imperative facing most organizations. I’m finding that it’s a convenient shorthand for what clients are now searching for:

– a culture that combines bottom-up continuous improvement with bold, sometimes game-changing, innovation initiatives across products, channels and business models

– the capability to manage relentless change to every aspect of their operations, from daily operational tweaks through to major systems and organizational transformations, and all at pace whilst ensuring compliance and effective risk management.

Brad’s recent FCB webinar with process legend Jim Champy touched on the evolution of process thinking:

“Twenty years ago process professionals drew their inspiration from engineering. The organization was seen as a machine. Twenty years from now there will still be process professionals, but they will draw on science – especially biology – rather than engineering. The organization will be seen and managed as a living entity.”

The Gaia analogy is a good one though we will surely draw just as much on the insights of psychology, sociology and behavioural economics. It’s a human challenge above all: at the highest level, how do we enable and encourage people working in complex and dynamic organizations within a sophisticated knowledge economy to collaborate creatively and effectively, often across organizational boundaries, in ways that accelerate organizational learning?

There’s a neat example of this new thinking in the context of the UK National Health Service (NHS). Continue reading

When Does A Tool Become A Platform?

What’s the difference between a process tool and a process platform?  And does it matter? I think so, and here’s why.

Let’s define a ‘process tool’ broadly, as a means of describing work, of ensuring it is undertaken efficiently and effectively, and of enabling improvement and change.

Many organizations have quite a list of process tools they use: procedural documents in Word or pdf formats; flowcharts in Powerpoint, Excel or Visio; fishbone diagrams and Value Streams created by a Lean Sigma team; detailed BPMN process diagrams, and business requirements capture tools, for IT purposes; and capability diagrams in enterprise architecture applications. And, to add to that Tower of Babel feeling, the process tools adopted will often vary by functional silo and by business unit. In short, if the purpose of process is to enable effective collaboration, it’s a mess.

Vendors these days tend to describe their offerings as ‘process platforms’, capable of providing a platform for effective collaboration and continuous improvement across the enterprise. It’s clearly the future. But what makes a platform?

For me, there are two essential capabilities for any sustainable process excellence platform: Continue reading

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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05 Apr 2013   The Process Team Quietly Demolishing Silos

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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