Can Cross-Silo Marriages Work?

The Friday Clinic – a confidential service for those with process problems and nowhere else to turn. We’re here to help!

Dear Doctor Process,

My fiancée says it’s all over. I don’t know how we came to this. I’m just a regular Six Sigma guy and she is the cutest Lean lady. [redacted on legal advice].  Is there any hope?

Name and address withheld

Dear Friend,

Cross-cultural relationships can work.  Many of us know IT guys, for instance, who have managed to marry outside their community and it’s worked. But if you’re serious, you need to shape up.

First up, you’ve got to start listening to your fiancée. Technically, you may be right that procreation is a process. But most women don’t see it as one. Or would agree that it should be statistically controlled. So don’t be defensive when she insists that your Minitab stays downstairs. Minimising variation doesn’t sit too well with quite a lot of aspects of happily married life.

You’re going to have to special attention to your language too. What works in the Six Sigma frat won’t work cross-culturally. Frankly, you’re lucky she didn’t finish it earlier after your ‘joke’ about whether her family was out-of-control and her mother was a cause of special variation.

And practise thinking from her perspective. It won’t hurt you to apply 5S to your tie-rack and wardrobe. You say that it’s her Lean charm that’s swept you off your feet, so respect that. If you really do want five children called Don, Mary, Andy, Iris and Charlie so that your offspring would be DMAIC, then maybe you need to find an MBB to settle down with.

Plead with her for a second chance, and this time learn her language. Then you won’t have more silly arguments about going to The Gambia.  You’ll never again get your hand slapped when she asks you to work on her pex.  And at the right time, you can whisper intimate sweet nothings that will bring you closer. Cuddling up on the sofa, even Lean girls want to hear more than ‘genchi genbutsu’ (you have got to delete that Lean Bluffer app).

Basically, and I know it’s hard, just try to act normal. Do not ever again think about proposing with a value chain.


The Process Doctor

More tragic tales from The Clinic:

18 Feb 2013   Dealing With Process Commitment Phobia

7 Oct 2012   Dealing With ERP Hangover (MyERPia)

Dealing With Process Commitment Phobia

On the edgeThe Process Clinic

– a confidential service for CxOs with process problems and nowhere else to turn. We’re here to help!

Dear Dr Process,

I thought I was a good CEO and ran a tight ship. Sure, my organization kept making the same mistakes.  We re-implemented SAP so many times that we made the careers of three generations of Deloitte partners.  Our efficiency programs were like Whack-a-Mole, increased costs popping up in one unit due to costs savings projects in another one. And we managed our outsourced relationships in a way that mostly just enriched the lawyers. But that’s normal, right? That’s what I thought at least. Until this weekend, when my best friend told me about Process Commitment Phobia.  Now my confidence is shattered – I’m writing to you from my iPad under the duvet at the Ritz Carlton – because, the way Alex told it, my organization definitely has PCP. Is there any cure?

Name and room number withheld

Dear Friend,

Don’t despair. These symptoms are certainly classic PCP.  But first you need to discreetly check some more to make sure of the diagnosis.  Here’s three easy tests. Ask your business transformation leaders if the start of every project feels like Groundhog Day – deploying teams to define yet again the business processes and their relationships with systems, documents, metrics and so on.  Then ask your Chief Risk Officer if her people feel one step removed, trying to track processes that are described and ‘managed’ in a mash up of formats and tools.  Finally, ask your Lean Sigma leader if his people are challenged to ensure that performance improvements are real and sustained.  If the answer’s ‘Yes’ to all three, then you can be sure it’s Process Commitment Phobia.

The good news is that PCP can be cured.  It’s hard work and you can’t do it overnight.  You’ll need to swap silo perspectives for joined-up thinking; extend the classic project focus to include long-term and sustainability; and to learn to embrace clarity in roles, responsibilities and accountability.

Your startpoint is to agree on a process platform for the enterprise.  A collaborative framework that uses the universal language of end-to-end process, and in the language of the business, not just IT. It will need to bring together all the stakeholders within a single governance environment – making it easy to get involved in the design and implementation of change. And, critically, it has to connect with operational reality. It has to help people across the organisation to get real work done. It has to be so intuitive, personalised and easy to use that it becomes ‘the way we work here’.  And it has to make it easy to feed back improvement ideas.

It’s tough medicine, I know. We’re just so used to seeing process as an overhead – as worthless hieroglyph fragments, ungoverned and in a variety of tools and formats. And it’s always comfortable to have vagueness and gray areas in accountability.  The sweetener I recommend is a spreadsheet.  Get your people to calculate how much time and cost would be saved, and black swans avoided, by having a complete understanding of the business.

So come out from under the duvet. Get dressed and go meet the Board as usual. And be open with them. Many of them will recognise PCP in their own behaviors.  Unless you can convince them to think differently, the organization will resist and snap back.  Treating PCP starts at the top.


The Process Doctor

Related Posts

07 Oct 2010    The Clinic: Dealing With ERP Hangover (MyERPia)

© Text Michael Gammage 2013

Dealing With ERP Hangover (MyERPia)

TOn the edgehe Process Clinic

We’ve finally given in to reader pressure – and launched the Process Clinic. Our in-house specialists help readers with their most sensitive issues. [Anonymity guaranteed.]


Dear Dr Process,

I have a $200m ERP hangover.  The business case promised standard global processes. Two years in, it seems that the real world isn’t just vanilla?  Now the CEO wants me in his office on Friday afternoon, with all my belongings in a box.  I can’t help being worried.

Thanking you in advance,

Name and address supplied

Dear Friend,

First of all, don’t worry – this sort of situation is far more common than you’d think. Many companies make a complete hash of their big systems implementations. It’s a form of short-sightedness (the technical term is MyERPia) where end-to-end vision is lost due to the growth of silos.

One part doesn’t know what the other parts are doing, or they have no common communication protocol, so the pathways are blocked. Each part works very hard but they’re not coordinated so the organization progresses at a snail’s pace.

The tragedy is that MyERPia is easily prevented. By using a collaborative framework for process management and performance improvement, organizations can design and deploy global standard processes but create and manage regional variants where they are required. They can even synchronise business and IT views so that they see properly, in stereo perspective.

As ever, there are alternative approaches.  They are unproven clinically but sworn by many to be effective. The most popular, known as ‘AvoidTheFan’, requires regular rotation between roles. Another one, known as ‘Revisionism’, involves the use of a powerful potion, which dissolves the original business case and re-writes it as a complete success.  This is best administered by a qualified systems integration partner.

There have been promising trials of a new treatment – a two-year-after pill called BlameSIandStartAgain (why do they give them these long Latin names?) –  which may work in your case.

Thanks for getting in touch. Good luck, stay cheerful and don’t forget your LinkedIn password because you might need it this weekend.


The Process Doctor

Related Posts

18 Feb 2013    The Clinic: Dealing With Process Commitment Phobia

© Text Michael Gammage 2013