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A point Walter Bril brought up in this discussion: Do you think corporate culture eats BPM strategy for breakfast?

Thursday, January 07 2016, 09:45 AM
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    Ian Gotts
    Ian Gotts
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    Thursday, January 07 2016, 10:10 AM - #Permalink
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    Absolutely.

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    Thursday, January 07 2016, 10:16 AM - #Permalink
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    For those who are interested in a more detailed why I made that statement, please have a read through my article of last year (see link below).

    In addition (and more as summary): I have seen too many initiatives where BPM (Strategy) is part of some sort of IT or compliancy related project or initiative. In other words: the wrong drivers as you're mostly too late by then. And that's why a strategy is named... well, a strategy :-)

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    Tim Bryce
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    Thursday, January 07 2016, 12:05 PM - #Permalink
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    It obviously depends on the culture's ability to adapt to change. Bureaucratic organizations will tend to resist, as will those embued with micromanagement. Entrepreurial organizations will more likely embrace it.

    References:

    1. http://timbryce.com/
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    Thursday, January 07 2016, 12:14 PM - #Permalink
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    @Walter's LinkedIn reference hits the nail on the head. Firstly, automation is overemphasized. Secondly, BPM is often driven by I.T. (once again because automation is a core goal). I.T. tends to have a poor understanding of business goals and processes. Heck, business users themselves are often not entirely clear on what the 'process' is.

    The entire presumption that there is a 'process' out there just waiting to be 'discovered' needs to be examined. Business is fast-changing and dynamic. A business user's understanding of the process is also continuously evolving (both because of a changing environment as well as cycles of learning).

    As a thought experiment, think of all the spreadsheets you have created. How many of these just emerged into their final form? How many required many cycles of iteration and learning. Having spreadsheets with a dozen iteration cycles is not uncommon. Now imagine that instead of you (the business user) creating the spreadsheet, I.T. was going to do it. So, first they would come and interview you. Of course your own understanding is dim at this point, but you convey what you know. It turns out that conveying what a spreadsheet should do is much harder than actually creating one. The Spreadsheet Coalition has helpfully created the SPMN* standard to describe what a spreadsheet should do. Hopefully there is nothing lost in translation. Then I.T. comes back to you in a few weeks with something. Now, your understanding has evolved so it is back to the drawing board. Also, it turns out that SPMN didn't really capture what you wanted. You can quickly see how business user's would be completely frustrated with this approach.

    To me it is clear that business users (and not I.T.) should be the ones creating and running processes. Furthermore, RAPID iteration is critical. Anything that gets in the way of rapid iteration (and hence learning) needs to be brushed aside. To the extent that automation is required it should come LATER once a process has been solidified and needs to be completely non-intrusive.

    Kanban, Agile Software Development and the Lean Startup approach revolutionized manufacturing, software development and startups respectively. The common thread was the move to rapid iteration and cycles of learning. I think BPM needs to undergo a similar mindset change to a 'Lean' approach.

    *SPMN - Spreadsheet Process Model and Notation ;)

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    Thursday, January 07 2016, 02:20 PM - #Permalink
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    Thus BPM must be "served" with some other "ingredients" as a coherent and yummy "meal" which each business unit may eat with its own pace - Corporate Uniformed Business Execution (CUBE) platform. See ref1

    Thanks,
    AS

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    Thursday, January 07 2016, 03:53 PM - #Permalink
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    Of course. If you have to worry about shareholder value, the next quarter, spreadsheet managers and the next round of lay offs, who has time for processes?

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    Thursday, January 07 2016, 04:25 PM - #Permalink
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    Nice observation (and LinkedIn post too) by Mr. Bril - although saying "culture eats BPM strategy for breakfast" is sort of like admitting to having grown up and to having put away the childish things of shiny programming tools. Probably a good idea for adults.

    That said, consider the implications. Managers, as avatars of modernity, concern themselves with change. With doing things better. If everything in the world of business and service was "jim peachy dandy", then organizations wouldn't need managers. Culture and tacit knowledge would be all you need.

    But managers, customers and owners aren't satisfied with the status quo. And apparently especially not today. "The times they are a-changing" sang Bob Dylan a half century ago.

    So, sure, culture eats BPM strategy for breakfast. But that's only if management isn't doing its job. It's management's job to lead, to make use of every resource to do the job better. Management should eat culture for breakfast. And what better side dish than a nice helping of BPM. BPM is one of management's best tools for getting the job done better.

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    Friday, January 08 2016, 06:15 AM - #Permalink
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    Having had a foot in both the Business Process and Change Management fields for a number of years, it is clear that an organisation's Culture can kill even the most obvious and beneficial process improvement proposals. As any Anthropologist will tell you, the innate beliefs, behaviours, war stories and rituals of tribes and their leaders make up the Culture binds a group together in the face of all adversity and any threats to the status quo.

    Organisational Culture is often well hidden from outsiders and newcomers; it's the secret means for 'How things really get done round here' or 'How to get on with so and so, or at least get by". So powerful is this force be that we collected data from commercial and public sector organisations around the world in order to understand, amongst other factors, the cultural differences between the successful 'Change Able' and the sadly 'Change Inept'.

    The results were clear and surprising: a specific Cultural profile exists in those organisations that can successfully sustain continuous change and outperform their competitors. Sometimes this specifc profile evolves because of the 'innovate or die' nature of an industry; sometimes it is deliberately created by a far-sighted leadership who recognise the importance of creating a culture that increases the probability and pace of successive positive outcomes.

    Can this cultural profile be instilled into all circumstances? Making it happen really depends on first creating a shared understanding and willingness amongst those parts of the organisation that can most directly influence behaviours and beliefs: The BPM Implementation team then needs to work closely with the Top Leaders, HR & OD professionals and particularly Front Line supervisors, more than middle ground Managers.

    How will you know if we have got it right? The short answer is that there is a short diagnostic survey that will tell you how people in an organisation perceive their culture, and how it is changing for better or worse. The longer answer is that the statistical probability of achieving successful project outcomes increases and staff feel more engaged and involved.

    So, either ignore culture or proactively manage it, the choice is yours.

    May the cultural force be with you!

    • John Morris
      more than a month ago
      Great tour of the question of culture and organization. As we acknowledge and embrace culture though is there not a danger of succumbing to cultural determinism?

      The whole zeitgeist in western countries these days concerns more-or-less-immutable "identities", so it's not unthinkable that the same ethos would show up in management thinking.

      To my mind, management is about something else, management concerns the modern, which is to say that life and organization is what we make it. It's stupid not to work with culture, obviously. Or one can "proactively manage it", as you suggest.

      Or perhaps go further and invite people to go beyond culture. I suppose this is what Apple was about in the beginning.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Friday, January 08 2016, 10:38 AM - #Permalink
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    Definitely. Even the best BPM strategy/initiative will fail facing backward culture. I'd even go one step further and say having proper culture eliminate a need to have aBPM strategy.

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