Penguins, Guillemots and Swimlanes

istock_000020691496small - editIn a workshop with a Life Sciences organization looking for a process platform to transform its approach to knowledge management, and the inevitable question comes up:  “We use swimlanes sometimes anyway – so what’s wrong with BPMN?”.

We gave, I think, a convincing response. Next time though I’m going to try drawing an analogy with wings.

Both penguins and guillemots have wings. But only guillemots fly.  According to a recent study, it’s an example of an evolutionary trade-off. A wing can’t be efficient for both flying and swimming.  Optimising wings for diving leads to unsustainably high energy costs for flight.

So penguins evolved wings that leave them waddling across land but can take them to depths of 1,800 feet in search of food; whereas guillemots fly but can dive only to 300 feet. Their wings serve different purposes.

It’s the same of course with the language of process.

Business Process Model and Notation (BPMN) is a process language optimized for automation.  It is high value from an IT perspective. With BPMN swimlanes, pools, complexity and precision, an organization can dive very deep.

Universal Process Notation (UPN) is optimized for operational excellence. It’s a process language designed to enable effective collaboration across the enterprise on innovation, transformation and continuous improvement. It’s UPN’s simplicity – from the user’s perspective – that enables an organization to fly.

The organization running this workshop wants to shift from a document-based to a process-based approach in search of agility and efficiency. They want a new way of working that will better support their front-line people, engage them in continuous improvement, enable stakeholders to automate and outsource where appropriate, and deliver a new customer experience.  That is flying not diving.

Once they have identified automation opportunities, BPMN can come into play – for the IT team at least – in the design and implementation of systems that are scoped to support the end-to-end business processes (that are defined and maintained using UPN).

Related Posts

15 Mar 2013   Future BPM: The Enterprise Platform

11 Dec 2012    Process Management and Google Maps

A Simplification Bandwagon Begins To Roll

iStock_000000213421MediumIs business simplification at last moving up the strategic agenda?

In recent discussions with three global organizations,  it’s the senior people who are arguing forcefully for simplicity. Admittedly,  all three are in Life Sciences but my hunch is that it’s a wider quest.

As one CxO put it:

“The world in which [this organization] operates is already complex. It is set to get far more complicated in the next three to five years as we work more collaboratively with clients, partners and service providers. There are going to be far more opportunities to do the wrong thing at the wrong time with the wrong person. Our risks are increasing rapidly. “

She went on to identify one of the root causes:

“At the moment, we deal with complexity by hiding it.  We bury it deep down in inpenetrable SOPs.  We need to expose that complexity. It’s the first step in simplifying our business – and engaging our people.”

Seems to me that she’s right on both counts.  Complexity has to be exposed before it can be reduced (and the direction of travel there is, of course, from a document-defined world to a process-based mindset that leverages the power of visualization).

It’s not just that people can’t contribute to a better way of doing things (or even do their current jobs well) if they don’t understand the big picture – though that is clearly true.

The strategic headlines here are about risk. People working in complex, fast-moving and perilous conditions – firefighters and surgeons, for instance – are drilled in situational awareness.  They are taught never to lose sight of the big picture.

Arguably, global businesses are becoming far more complex, fast-moving and perilous than surgery or firefighting. They require the orchestration of large numbers of people, spread across all regions of the world, and collaborating across organizational boundaries and functional silos. Situational awareness matters more than ever, which is why business simplification looks set to become the zeitgeist.

Related Posts

25 Mar 2013   When Process Precision Saves Children’s Lives

19 Mar 2013   The Risks In Social Without Governance

© Text Michael Gammage 2013

Lean Pharma: Tackling Compliance Obesity

Not to put too fine a point on it, Quality and Compliance are often completely out of control in PharmaLand. No-one doubts the need for uncompromising quality and compliance. But the way that this is delivered in Pharma today is not just over-engineered and over-expensive, it’s become a source of risk in its own right.

Things can get to a point in obesity where surgery is the only way out. Everything I see suggests that we’ve reached the point where only a radical new approach can slice through and remove the multiple, overlapping layers of complexity to expose and manage the true compliance essentials underneath.

In a recent workshop with a Pharma organization, we were attempting to condense several dozen SOPs into a standard global process. The SOPs were often vague, long-winded, contradictory and only tenuously linked to the Quality and Compliance manual. So while the formal SOPs are consulted, in practice, they are usually ’supplemented’ by informally ’asking an SME’.

That’s of course when the SOPs are readily available. Recently a global process owner offered to print out for me the two ‘foundation’ SOPs for his process. It took him 15 minutes to find one of the SOPs – and that was in the dedicated Sharepoint site for this particular process.

These organizations are not unusual: as far as I can see, this is close to the Pharma norm. The people involved are bright, conscientious and endeavour to act with integrity at all times. But they are overwhelmed with unclear and sometimes conflicting information. In CMMI terms, these are organizations operating near to the lowest point on the process maturity curve: Quality and Compliance is often being delivered through a culture of heroes.

Most Pharma organizations are pursuing programs to simplify, to standardise and to eliminate non-value-add (NVA) activities. But often quality and compliance functions are barely touched.

It’s a nettle that has to be grasped. Outsourcing and re-shaped business models can only go so far to deliver the required levels of performance improvement. Quality and compliance isn’t going away. In fact, the reverse. The compliance burden is set to grow rapidly as Pharma expands into emerging markets and branded generics, and develops global operations in an increasingly multipolar regulatory world. With the costs of regulatory non-compliance spiralling, it’s not difficult to imagine that Quality and Compliance may soon be the largest single NVA in many organizations.

The liposuction equivalent for Compliance obesity is, of course, the adoption of a process management platform. In a client workshop I supported last week, that team succeeded in condensing numerous SOPs into a single standard global definition of Validation. We spent two days creating the two top levels of the process model. The power of process visualization, the rigour of a process hierarchy, and the constant pressure to describe things simply, in the language of the user, led to real agreement on a standard global process.

There’s plenty of detail to be added. And the activities in this process, and its regional and site variants, will need to be cross-referenced to the library of quality and compliance requirements. But eventually, and after completing the review and authorisation cycle, it will be published – and delivered to process users as easy-to-follow role-based storyboards.

It’s an approach that’s absolutely rigorous. It’s also multi-dimensional. It’s designed to manage complexity. It supports rich what-if analytics. But, critically, it’s also focussed on simplicity, on user adoption and enabling real work. Which is why it’s the key to Lean Quality and Compliance – and continuous improvement.

Goodbye To The SOP As A 50 Page Word Document

NapkinEverything points to this as an inflection point (scientific napkin view – left).

There’s an increasing number of people in Life Sciences looking for a better way of managing the knowledge that has traditionally been deposited in a vast library of SOP documents that are read, mostly, just by authors and auditors.

In the past two weeks, I’ve been engaged with two organizations searching for an alternative process-based approach. Both want to minimise the number of SOPs – even eliminate them altogether. Their strategic drivers: compliance and performance improvement.

From the compliance perspective, they want end-to-end process visibility, and governance, that will highlight the overlaps and inconsistencies inherent in lengthy stand-alone SOP documents. They see higher levels of process adherence resulting from higher levels of process understanding.

They also want to build more flexible high performance cultures – and recognise that is underpinned by organizational process maturity. So they want to connect people with process, and embed it in their way of working. Their start point is to make the knowledge currently buried in SOPs easily accessible to people doing real work, through end-to-end process perpectives and role-based storyboards. They also want to integrate process with real-time performance metrics. And to adopt it as the language and framework for collaboration on continuous improvement.

Kudos to Novartis, which has been the leader in this transformation. But the adoption of end-to-end process as a better way to manage and improve highly complex organizations, operating within a world of rigorous regulatory regimes, now looks like an idea whose time has come.

Why Process Excellence Will Underpin Next Generation Pharma

Organizations across the planet are grappling with how to fundamentally re-invent themselves, and at an ever-increasing pace of change. But few industries face the challenges of Pharma, which may traditionally have been seen as conservative and slow-moving, but is set to undergo a rapid revolution driven by a stark new competitive landscape.

McKinsey Quarterly Dec 2011McKinsey, not given to hyperbole, set out the scale of transformation last month in A Wake-Up Call For Big Pharma:

“This dramatic situation requires Big Pharma executives to envision responses that go well beyond simply tinkering with the cost base or falling back on mergers and acquisitions… A bolder, more radical approach to Big Pharma’s operating model must become a realistic planning scenario.”

It’s an exciting time to be working in process management and in Life Sciences. Because whichever you look at the challenges facing Pharma, the answers most often link directly to process excellence.

It’s not just that a process management platform can enable and orchestrate all the actors involved in transformational change. It’s fundamental to success in other ways too:

Collaboration. It’s the ideal governance framework for the collaboration with third parties that will become increasingly common.

Outsourcing. It’s the ideal service management framework for a world where blends of shared services, outsourcing and multisourcing will be far more common.

Performance Improvement. It’s the ideal framework for Lean and Six Sigma initiatives, for sustainable change, and for continuous improvement.