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.