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…

Related Posts

28 Aug 2012   The ROI On Process Visualization

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

New Horizons: Process 2020

The last time I started a business, we found ourselves, twelve months later and after repaying every cent due, homeless and penniless – and with two children under two years old.

I bounced back immediately with a new knock-out business idea.  Not. But with the support of family and friends, we slowly rebuilt. We were older, wiser and rather more risk averse.

So it’s a huge tribute to my wife’s courage that here I am doing it again.  And this time, I’m happy to add, with the enthusiastic support of our sons, now in their mid-20s.

My new venture, Process Operandi, is intended to be a home for world-class and independent expertise on process and operational excellence. It’s early days of course but promising. [I’m hoping we can keep the house this time round 😉 ].

I’ve worked for most of this century in business process management – at Savvion, Nimbus and TIBCO.  And I’ve been fortunate to work with some awesome clients, partners and colleagues, from whose creativity and generosity I have benefited enormously.

What did I learn?  A decade in, and at a transition point like this, seems like a natural time for reflection. And especially as, in some ways, I’ve been an eyewitness. There’s been a sea change in ‘business process management’ in the last decade and, in many ways, Nimbus has been at the eye of the storm.

So I’m going to share some personal reflections – on what I’ve learned, and what I think it means for the future – in a series of three Process 2020 posts. They start this Thursday 12 September with some 20:20 hindsight: Business Process Management’s Lost Decade.

I hope they’ll be of interest – and look forward as ever to your comments.

Nimbus V9 And The ROI On Engagement

nimbus-9-landing-page-banner_tcm8-18116In case you missed the trumpet fanfares: TIBCO just announced the long-awaited V9 release of Nimbus.

Personally, I’m squeamish about hype. I can LOL at the inflated claims of others. But I recoil from it myself (no moral high grounding, just a personal quirk). Anyway, I have to admit that my first instinct was to cringe on reading that V9 is a “revolutionary milestone in business process improvement”.  But, actually, on reflection, my marketing colleagues are about right.

In good teams, people are engaged. Each person feels able and empowered to contribute their ideas. Each one feels involved and confident that their input can make a difference. And, just in case you think this is getting all too luvvy, there’s an ROI here as well. Engaged people are happier. And happy teams are far more productive and creative.

So everything points to the crucial value of engagement. But nurturing it is more difficult, by an order of magnitude, in a world where so many of us are now knowledge workers, often collaborating remotely with people we’ve never met, and across complex global organizational landscapes. How do you get engagement in today’s world?

You can see the search for this modern philosopher’s stone going on all around us. It’s been a major theme in the MixFix debates on re-imagining the enterprise.

One of the keys to engagement is simplicity. People can’t or won’t engage if they don’t understand.

Neil Taylor quoted a great example recently. After six months trying to improve “operational excellence”, only one of his client’s teams had actually improved. It turned out that the team leader was holding weekly meetings that she called “Doing everyday things better”. She had made it simple – she turned corporate-speak into down-to-earth language – so her team got engaged.

Against this backdrop and these challenges, Nimbus V9 is a revolutionary milestone.

Nimbus UPN was designed from the outset to create process that is easy on the eye, to engage and support process users. Nimbus already delivered that content as a personalized ‘intelligent operations manual’ to every desktop and mobile device. Nimbus V9 now provides a completely new user interface that is significantly more intuitive.

V9 makes it even easier for people to find the right information, in the right context, at the time that they need it – and delivered in the format that works best for them. Feedback, actions and change requests are simpler too. And all without sacrificing any of the governance capabilities that underpin Nimbus as an enterprise platform for process management and continuous improvement.

Engagement matters more than ever – and simplicity is its essential foundation. V9 pushes us much further up the curve. It’s going to be fascinating to see how clients leverage this. Must stop now, need to go. Marketing colleague at the door. With a baseball bat?

Related Posts

13 Dec 2012    The Universal Business Language: Process

28 Aug 2012    The ROI On Process Visualization

© Text Michael Gammage 2013

The ROI On Process Visualisation

Two more client examples on the power of process visualization.  But first, some astounding data on the potential ROI of making collaboration more productive.

The Collaborative Organization

The MITSloan Management Review just re-published the winning essay of the 2012 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize on The Collaborative Organization. It summarises a six-year research study covering all major industries. And it includes some astonishing data on the everyday collaboration inefficiencies that we’ve come to think of as normal. Two examples:

“We were struck by the sheer volume of the collaborative demands on people’s time: Many individuals spent 25 to 35 hours per week preparing for and engaging in collaborations with others.”

“If the collaborative efficiency of only 20 of the less efficient project managers and organizational leaders improved from below-average to average, it would save the roughly 400 individuals who interacted regularly with them up to 1,500 hours per week.”

Clearly, there is a huge latent ROI in making collaboration more productive. So how do you achieve it?

Well, creating a simple common language, and a single source of truth, must surely be a critical enabler.  And the only serious candidate as the universal language for collaboration must be end-to-end process. But it has to be presented in way that is visual, intuitive and engaging.

This week’s two client examples powerfully illustrate this:

In the first case, a wholesale distribution business, the client adopted Nimbus to remedy a failing ERP implementation.  Visualization of the end-to-end processes revealed more than a thousand specific business requirements. Even more dramatically, it exposed the fact that inventory management had been overlooked – the Supply Chain team thought the CRM team was handling it, and the CRM team thought the Procurement team had it in scope.

In the other case, a business services provider, the client adopted Nimbus to breathe life into its Operating Framework, transforming it from a sleepy and neglected 200-page Word document into process content that is of equal rigor but visual, engaging and helpful. That visualization is creating a collaborative framework that can drive standardization, performance improvement and assured compliance across its European operations.

In today’s complex and real-time world, there are enormous benefits in making collaboration more productive. And effective process visualization has to be central to achieving it.

Related Posts

20 Jun 2012    Process: The Emerging Global Business Language

28 Nov 2011    Cracking Complexity in Novartis

© Text Michael Gammage 2012

Process And The New World Of Risk Management

Deloitte AftershockThis week’s report from Deloitte and Forbes Aftershock: Adjusting To The New World of Risk Management maps the changing landscape in enterprise risk management (ERM).

ERM is now a C-Suite issue according to the 192 execs surveyed. But ERM effectiveness depends upon company-wide engagement.  In the words of one CFO quoted in the report:

“There is always a concern that if you set up a large ERM team, they somehow own risk. It can’t work that way. People that manage the day-to-day business need to own risk”.

It’s worth noting – and some visionary Nimbus clients are already moving in this direction – that many of the top ERM challenges identified in the survey are addressed directly by a business process management platform.

ERMRelated Posts

27 Jun 2012    What Do We Even Mean By Governance?

Why Process Improvement Projects Fail

Interesting times.  There’s an emerging consensus that Lean, Six Sigma and other process improvement programs are failing, and a myriad explanations why.  And yet – I just saw a(nother) Nimbus client video on a remarkable success in sustainable process excellence.

There’s no shortage of doomsayers.  In a PEX Network podcast just released, Nigel Clements, who will keynote at the Process Excellence conference in London in April, estimates that up to 70% of process improvement projects fail.  In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Professor Sakya Chakravorty estimated that 60% of Six Sigma projects fail. And the PEX Network poll launched last week on ‘the biggest barriers to continuous improvement’ has already attracted 500 voters.

But why? That’s where the divergences start.  There may be common agreement on the symptoms, but there are many different diagnoses of the underlying condition.

Nigel Clements, for instance, points to Deming’s ‘five deadly diseases’ as the root causes: lack of constancy of purpose; emphasis on the short term; compensation that distorts incentives; over-mobility of management; and only using visible figures.

Professor Chakravorty suggests the need for Six Sigma ‘experts’ to be retained on projects for longer; for smaller project teams; and for tying in performance appraisals to adoption of change.

Both though agree on what must be the single over-arching truth here: that success in continuous improvement (CI) is about creating an enterprise-wide culture of engagement and collaboration.  And that it is impossible without leadership from the top.

Even Nimbus is not, dare I say it, an essential for success in sustainable process excellence.  It hugely increases the chances of success in setting up and maintaining any CI program. But, ultimately, it is simply an enabler.  Without executive vision and commitment, nothing sustainable can succeed.

The client case study I just saw is on the launch of a global CI program in a Fortune 100 organization. It brings new levels of creativity in how it leverages Nimbus. There’s huge attention to graphic design as one of the keys to users engagement.  It has real-time metrics that look beyond process performance to cover as well process adherence and popularity. It also extends the standard RACI model in a way that brings a new clarity and productivity in compliance. And subtly, and throughout, it reinforces this organization’s values.

What made it possible? Executive energy plus the adoption of Nimbus as the process platform, and UPN as the process language.  But it was also the Nimbus methodology: the creativity inherent in live workshops in the discovery phase, facilitated by an experienced Nimbus consultant, to map out new ways of working.

It’s confidential right now – for obvious competitive reasons – but hopefully might make it into the public domain in due course. It’s a sparkling glimpse of the future in a world of CI gloom and angst. And exactly the kind of story that can fire up C-Level imagination and commitment.

A Process Platform, Not A Process Tool

It’s true that ’platform’ sounds like Marketing-speak. But there’s an important distinction between a process tool and a process platform. And it’s not widely appreciated, which is why so many organizations continue to waste so many millions of dollars on process tools that can never deliver what they are looking for: operational excellence and continuous improvement.

TIBCO Nimbus is a process platform. Others will no doubt catch up, but it remains the leader. It creates an integrated business management platform that underpins quality and compliance. It enables collaboration on performance improvement within a robust governance framework. It orchestrates every aspect of business transformation. It delivers the content that supports real work, to every desktop and mobile, and it engages people across the enterprise in continuous improvement. And to achieve this, to create this platform for operational excellence, it uses the language and rigor of end-to-end business process.

A tool is for a particular and more limited purpose. A process tool tends to be focussed on the needs of a project, and to be discarded afterwards, its content filed away. Whereas a process platform assumes re-use and longevity, a mindset of sustainable excellence

Process tools can be essential – in software package configuration or other automation projects, for instance. But, at best, they can only provide a complete view of the enterprise from the perspective of what’s automated. Whereas a process platform aspires to create a joined-up and holistic view of the enterprise.

Process tools have dominated up to now. And they are a big reason why process thinking has taken so long to penetrate the C-Suite. Execs can see that, by and large, process tools offer only IT perspectives on the enterprise. Even worse, they are usually also incomplete and ungoverned, and describe process in the language of IT.

Process platforms are the future. There’s still C-Level resistance in some organizations – mostly because both process tools and process platforms start with a visualization of process as boxes and lines. So, at first glance, they are both ‘just process drawing tools’. Yawn…

But how process is visualized matters enormously. Organizations that choose the language of a process tool, such as BPMN or EPC, which are focussed on automation and the needs of an IT audience, will get very different results from organizations choosing to adopt the language of a process platform, such as Nimbus UPN, which sets out to describe end-to-end processes in a way that everyone can understand.

And, anyway, a process platform is about boxes and lines as much as Shakespeare is about words and sentences.

Reduced to basics, it’s true to say that the Bard just wrote words and formed sentences like every other playwright and poet. ”To be or not to be? That is the question.” It’s words in a sentence. But Hamlet is a tragedy that has moved audiences for over four hundred years. It has meaning and value far beyond the words from which it is composed.

Less dramatically, a process platform too has meaning and value to the enterprise far beyond the activity boxes, lines and diagrams from which it is composed. I’m not exactly confident that it’s going to be around in four hundred years – but, for the foreseeable future, the process platform is the essential enabler for operational excellence and continuous improvement.