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As change is one of the most difficult things for companies to do successfully, is continuous process improvement the key to effective change?
Anatoly Belaychuk Accepted Answer
Blog Writer

For me, it's rather the countrary: the culture of change is the key to continuous process improvement.
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Craig Willis Accepted Answer

To me continuous improvement is about agility. Companies that engage in change programs aren't agile enough to naturally deal with change so they lurch from one big change to another. Unfortunately where I do see CI practiced the staff are rarely empowered to make important decisions so they make minor changes. These are often improvements but not fast or big enough to avoid the dreaded change program. Of course I get paid to work on change programs so perhaps the status quo isn't so bad....
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Emiel Kelly Accepted Answer

Agree with Anatoly. And you have to be aware that change can have 2 faces:


Change that you initiate like new products or new business models. That is cool change.


And there is change you have to adapt to. Could be legal things, but when it is to keep up with your competitors, it's not such a fun change.


And besides that; improving is not a goal. Doing well is. But 'well' can change in a minute ;-)
Common Sensei at Procesje.nl
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Walter Bril Accepted Answer

I'd say it is the other way around. At least at the start.


Creating a (BPM supportive)
[i]change culture[/i]
is the single most toughest exercise I believe exists. Obviously, things should become easier when such a culture starts running through your company DNA. And, really important: You are in excellent control of the
[i]balance of process, people and technology[/i]
(in that explicit order by the way).


With balance I mean the following: You could have great flexibility (e.g., the best of the best motivated, pro-active and flexible co-workers, e.g., capability), but if you are not in control of managing your processes, you waste an awful lot of time and money. Or: You can have all of the above, but if supported by bad or lousy technology it won't bring you much more... The challenge here is to create a healthy balance, which means that you have to juggle the combination...


And, last but not least: Have a story. Why do we exist (as a business, as a role). If you can't answer the why, start rethinking what the ... you spend your time and money on. Any level.


 
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Continuous process improvement is the Key even > 2 times because of two mutually enhancing factors:


1) Management business by processes


2) Continuous improvement mentality


Thanks,

AS
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Jose Camacho Accepted Answer

In my opinion, the best way is to prepare the base organization for continuous change, creating the agility of a dynamic of accomplishment of market changes, or even anticipating these changes in order to maximize the advantages of being the first to provide the supply that markets crave.



This dynamic goes necessarily through a process (governance) of continuous improvement of operational processes, which should provide improvement requests at any time, and a sequence of activities involving all those stakeholdes to ensure the assessment, impact analysis and design, planning and implementation, monitoring and control for closing each improvement cycle.



Given that most of the innovations result from the improvement of processes, rather then breaks, such justifies the establishment of a framework and a governance which establishes a continuous change, which will better guarantee the sustainability of the business, in the present and in the future.
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Scott Cleveland Accepted Answer

If you believe that process is important, then the only option is continuous improvement...
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Continuous process improvement is not key to change.


Change can occur / be needed at the strategy level, the operational level, both, or mandated, so we cannot say that a philosophy of "continuous process improvement" is or should be a driving force.


Corparations should not strive for change for the sake of change.


They should rather be looking inward and outward with a view to improving competitive advantage and making whatever change is essential.


Change costs time/money. It is disruptive. Some changes give positive ROI, others do not. Too much tweaking and you get to instabiliiy and to diminishing returns. Most staff / middle management do not like change.


We need to avoid silos of roving "change artists" with hammers looking for nails.


 


 
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Reading this, corporations need to encourage innovation and innovation almost always requires change - the comment about time/money etc is not meant to discourage change.
  1. karl walter keirstead
  2. 9 months ago
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David Chassels Accepted Answer

Change at the front line is inevitable and we all know the existing inflexible silos of data/information in current legacy makes change expensive so people work off line........then submit to these systems. That "gap" can now be filled by BPM thinking supported by next generation Adaptive software. As a side benefit this approach will over time enable retirement of such legacy systems. The benefit is that change becomes readily supported to allow continuous improvement to be ready implemented direct from business users ideas.


As an example some real facts from early adopter in a complex case management running end to end process resulting schedule of payments to be made spread over years. All built in a graphical interface as a map displaying tasks including user interfaces. An analysis after some 12 years showed


75 process maps with 226 over life cycle


2406 associated tasks with 5087 over life cycle


538 user interfaces (forms) with 1114 over life cycle


In effect it is a future proof system and continuous improvement is an accepted way to work. As one internal manager said it is the same system originally installed but now looks quite different! Yes as Karl indicates there does need to be common sense that drives change not the " roving change artists" syndrome!


Interestingly after some 15 years the system in process of changing from client server to web at cost of less than £50k such is the elegance of the architecture.......it is the future.....and game changing but disruptive....and that is the real challenge!



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E Scott Menter Accepted Answer
Blog Writer

The phrase “process improvement”—and, indeed, the concept itself—reeks of Taylorish incrementalism. Improvement is something you do as you go, like adding a little more salt to the otherwise tasty casserole your spouse whipped up for dinner. You don't put together a committee of stakeholders and hire analysts to determine the root cause of the blandness of the meal, options for improving it, and (having settled on adding salt as the specific improvement to be made), how many shakes of which type of container are required.


It's OK, it's just us here, you can admit it: that's exactly what your company is doing, isn't it?


Bad process is expensive, but so is endless analysis. Forget“process improvement” and focus instead on the technology revolution that is going to transform your business, open new markets, and, oh, by the way, completely reshape your organization's approach to developing business applications.
http://www.bplogix.com/images/icon-x-medium.png Scott
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"Taylorish incrementalism" - you make that sound like a bad thing . . . : )
  1. John Morris
  2. 9 months ago
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Bogdan Nafornita Accepted Answer

I agree with the Taylorish incremental take, however I'd love to see business revolutions at any turn.



In reality, we humans are cognitively impaired (either tired, stressed, misinformed, distracted or just plain stupid) most of our lives, in most situations.



We can only dream about being disruptive all our lives but biology, chemistry, physics, culture keep us confined within mundane constraints, like mass and time. In these cases, continuous improvement is the best we can hope for.



But going back to the question:

Yes, continuous improvement is a mindset - it's about embracing uneasy questions and uncomfortable territories every day. And sometimes, just sometimes, this leads to disruption.
Managing Founder, profluo.com
Comment
By definition, each enterprise is a complex socio-technical system (with many emergent good and bad characteristics) and just having “the culture for change” is not enough – HOW an enterprise is carrying out changes is very important. We know the devastating effect of the BPR which did not manage this HOW.

Firstly, improvements can be done only incrementally because of the complexity.
Secondly, it is mandatory to have a model which can be used to objectively test various improvement ideas coming from “the culture for change”.
Thirdly, such a model should be executable to reuse the existing performance data to improve the quality of its predictions.

So far, only "enterprise as a system of explicit and machine-executable processes" can provide such a model. Thus continuous process improvement is only the option which is based on some scientific considerations.

Thanks,
AS
  1. Dr Alexander Samarin
  2. 9 months ago
Absolutely. I don't mean that we should abandon incremental improvement--after all, the casserole really might taste better with some extra salt. But the endless analysis and organizational propaganda effort around "process improvement" all too often seems to me to be fiddling while Rome burns.
  1. E Scott Menter
  2. 9 months ago
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John Morris Accepted Answer

Continuous improvement and change enablement?


Sure - but unless based on management science and good governance, these fads are likely to become management fetishes implemented as performance art. And there will be little to show for the expenditure of scarce treasure.


--------------------------------


TL;DR . . . 


So many marvellous comments and stories stimulated by the idea of continuous improvement and change. The egregious Taylorism . . . of casseroles (the micro perspective). The quotidian mundanity of . . . mass and time (the macro perspective). Heraclitus would be proud.


From a business perspective though, obsessing about change as the context for continuous improvement on its own is probably unhelpful. The pursuit of change (or agility or adaptability or continuous improvement or whatever) which is unmoored in theory or science is as helpful as any management fad.


Which isn't to say "unhelpful", but
[u]management fads are not likely to get you a competitive edge[/u]
. And management fads can too easily become fig leaves for the usual suspects of management dysfunction, such as rent seeking and power politics.


Consider the possibility that the idea of continuous improvement in the face of unrelenting change may in fact be a management fad.


As
[b]Geoffrey Moore[/b]
(of "Crossing the Chasm" fame) has written last year, up-ending your business model for the sake of change is an extremely risky proposition. And even the idea that we are living through a time of extraordinary business change is less true than we might think (
[b]Frank Cespedes[/b]
in HBR, also last year).


So, if we are
[u]not to treat continous improvement and change as fetishes or performance art[/u]
, in what way could these ideas be useful?


Dr. Samarin has mentioned "
[u]science", and specifically that continuous improvement is the only way to address change "which is based on scientific considerations[/u]
".


Managers are paid well to think beyond the obsessions of today. That managing should be rational and based in science. Change yes. Continuous improvement yes. And a culture of change, sure. But let's also make sure that the discourse of change is supported by real theory and management science.
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