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Jim Sinur recently wrote the blog, Is Process a Dirty Word? So do you think businesses see process as a negative, and if so, how can this be changed?
Tuesday, December 17 2013, 10:06 AM
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    Tuesday, December 17 2013, 10:18 AM - #Permalink
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    Interesting question! "Negative" may not be precisely the right word, but "mundane" or "unsexy" -- and perhaps thus unworthy of investment -- might be! To me, process issues suffer from the same syndrome automobile tires do: they're expensive, largely invisible to daily life, but absolutely vital to operational performance and safety. So money gets spent on them, but grudgingly and rarely without griping. OK, so maybe the word "negative," even if overstated a bit, isn't such a bad descriptor after all!
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    Tuesday, December 17 2013, 10:31 AM - #Permalink
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    As Steve eluded, 'unsexy' is probably the more relevant word. Compared to the hype generated by the likes of Salesforce and CRM I haven't seen anything generate that kind of noise in the BPM sphere. It's a grudge purchase, and in the case of trying to sell the benefits of BPM for compliance matters for example, it's seen as an unnecessary evil like an insurance policy. But having come from a recent event in London for UK Government, process is no longer a dirty word. There are still organizations who want and need process governance, automate and a way to streamline and understand their operations. Where there is apathy towards BPM in some quarters there's still a desire to learn about the benefits elsewhere. It's up to us as vendors/ practitioners to update and tailor the message according to client need not squabble over what the definition is. As an industry we spend too much time staring at each other's navels instead of promoting what BPM can actually achieve. Trust me when I say that's not a sexy look. Therein lies the problem.
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    Tuesday, December 17 2013, 12:14 PM - #Permalink
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    Steve, is absolutely spot on processes are the invisible glue that joins strategy to execution. Businesses typically have a very enlightened view of processes they understand and see them as valuable, hence the number of re-engineering, and process improvement projects in flow. However the investment in process improvement is only given on a case by case basis. I have never seen an organisation with a Chief Process Officer, outside the case studies that is, although all the best practice advice suggests that this would e a good idea. Organisations just do not want to invest on going to the next level because they can't see the value. Until they do, there will be continuing under investment and mis-management of processes.
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    Tuesday, December 17 2013, 12:57 PM - #Permalink
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    Process has gotten a bad rap because of reductionist oversimplification. There is this dominant belief that underneath every complicated phenomenon there is a relatively simpler rule, and the process can be decomposed into smaller, simpler pieces that stand on their own. In other words, the organization is a machine, and we need only decompose the process until we get to a level that can be automated. Then you hire engineers who take this literally, and automate the process in exactly the form that has been isolated. When you approach a complex organization like this, the result is calcification, and in many cases the inability to meet the evolving needs. The problem is a believe that there is one true way for an organization to behave, and that way will remain static. Managers are beginning to see this, and this is recent evidenced by the Global Peter Drucker Forum which named its conference this year Managing Complexity. There is a growing awareness that the concept of isolated, discrete, understood processes are not meeting the need. Organizations are instead being seen as something more like a living system, which has multiple overlapping and interrelated parts: everything depends upon everything, like an ecosystem, not a machine. As Jim Sinur points out, there are new techniques appearing as well: non-programmed processes that mine the history of past events to suggest possible courses instead of specifying those courses with a literally programmed process. There is Adaptive Case Management which allows case managers to literally make up new activities and courses at any time. To use these approaches, you need to abandon the idea that the process will be controlled and enforced to go in a way that is known to work. Jim will point out that the concept of a "process" does not need to be pre-programmed. However, this understanding is at odds with the widespread reductionist view of a process. Jim says these processes might innovated, but I woudl point out that in order to innovate, you have to experiment and fail. Most organizations are not willing to put in place a process system that fails half the time. Jim is attempting to reeducate the population. Will he succeed? I will be waiting on the edge of my seat.
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    Tuesday, December 17 2013, 02:41 PM - #Permalink
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    Organizations have processes, but people have jobs. I don't think people see a process as negative. I think they don't see process at all. Or better; they don't care about it. And that might still come from the good old hierarchical way of assessing and rewarding people. If you're paid to meet your targets, whether or not it contributes to some kind of process, would you care about the process at all? Of course there are jobs in the world that connect better to the idea of process. Think about jobs that have to do with process improvement, automation, lean, tqm etc. But the weird thing is; all that kind of people are 'outsiders' to the execution of the process. They don't work in the process. They talk about it, model it, automate it. And then I can imagine the people who really execute parts of the process get a negative opinion about all those 'process things'. 'Why do they bother me with that process bullshit, I have a target to meet!' At the forum we all are some kind of process crazy, but I think it's a big illusion everyone in a company gets the process vibe. But at least companies could start to connect employee goals to process goals and enable and coach them more to contribute to the things that pay their salary; processes. But then the question is; do companies really care about processes?
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    Tuesday, December 17 2013, 06:08 PM - #Permalink
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    Read the post, read the responses here. It's a word. Like any other it can have positive or negative connotations, largely based upon context. Given context any individual can ascribe any positive or negative to it they so choose dependent upon their own intent. As an outsider looking in recently, correctly pointed out to me we, on the inside, spend a lot of time focusing, being too obsessed with this stuff at times. Maybe "a lot" of times. Use any word(s), methodology(ies), tool(s), construct(s) we like, it's still all about, should be, better be, understanding. What needs to be done? And what word(s) we choose to use associated with figuring that out and how best to do that is of our choosing. As long as it works. Solve the problem. [shrug]
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    Wednesday, December 18 2013, 07:04 AM - #Permalink
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    Emiel makes a good point "....If you're paid to meet your targets, whether or not it contributes to some kind of process, would you care about the process at all?" And here in is the biggest issue to be addressed. I hope we will see "process" rise in importance as this destructive target culture, which contributed to the financial meltdown, is replaced by empowerment of people which Emiel concludes ".....connect employee goals to process goals and enable and coach them more to contribute to the things that pay their salary; processes" I believe IT (including conflicted analysts) has contributed over the past 40 years to this "process failure" but now has the opportunity to reverse this as "BPM" supporting technologies bring adaptability yet simplicity to reflect the real world of work. Forcing BPM COTS on to people is not the answer it requires custom build in business language with easy change as circumstances require. Real time measurement of processes empowers people and makes for better decision making; only then will the light switch on for “process”….?
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    Sunday, January 19 2014, 02:29 PM - #Permalink
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    I agree with Emiel Kelly. Anyway, I see this point at two levels. At the lowest level, people are just worried on their own tasks as small parts of the process, while others in a level above should focus on the entire process to better control the business cycles and identify improvements of efficiency, but I think that's normal under a business process arquitecture, where each one plays his own role, and together forms a team. From my own experience in a recent project, we used the E2E processes to structure the activities according to a specific service to produce (customer service), and then we used this structure to detail the tasks for execution. The result was a drastically simplification of the tasks and the performers thanked to the BPM team, because they became their job easier, facilitating their lives and their contribution to the corporate objectives. On the other side, the monitoring of E2E allowed to observ significant reductions in time and costs of serving customers and raising the level of quality (less recidivism).
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  • Accepted Answer

    Monday, January 20 2014, 06:25 AM - #Permalink
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    My personal take is that, since process efforts have been traditionally championed by top staff roles (Mr. Bear Market CFO, Mrs. Pitbull Internal Auditor), with a top-down approach, and usually in unpleasant or sensitive contexts (as reaction to a bad audit report / fraud / cost cutting proposal), yes - process is a dirty word within companies. But I do predict that, soon enough, technology will make BPM sexy and fun. Not this year, though. In the meanwhile, we could all help by stopping associating BPM with cost cutting, rigid roleplays, and compliance metaphors.
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