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Thought it was revealing in this article when Mary Barra, the CEO of GM, announced to her employees:
Something went wrong with our process…and terrible things happened.
Assuming GM wasn't doing BPM, or at least not well, what aspect of BPM should have revealed a fault in their processes and how would BPM prevent this from ever happening again?
Thursday, March 20 2014, 09:39 AM
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 20 2014, 10:15 AM - #Permalink
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    Two BPM-related aspects can help: 1 Link processes and enterprise risk management as shown in http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.ch/2011/10/ea-view-on-enterprise-risk-management.html 2 Make the security explicit via processes. For example, if an engineer reported a potential problem (which may “touch” his/her supervisor) in a task A then a task B (to approve the task A) must re-assigned to another manager (not to his/her supervisor as by default). Thanks, AS
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 20 2014, 12:28 PM - #Permalink
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    This is a hard one. For sure something went wrong in the process. That can be at the supplier of the parts, at assembly or at quality control. And then Alexander's comments make sense. But, I can imagine future defects of parts cannot be detected during the manufacturing process. They just happen during the use of the car. Modern cars are like computers,so you could imagine that after a car is sold, it sends information to the car manufacturer when the car software detects malfunctions. It's like monitoring a process. Of course privacy issues will play a role in these kind of things, but wouldn't it be great that a manufacturer could act faster, based on the operation information of a car, when it sees problems at a car and so prevents it at other cars to happen. Prevention is better than cure, but I think it is an illusion that all future defects could be prevented during manufacturing. If that was possible cars would come without guarantee because they would never break down. In this case it is sad that lives were lost, but a good after sales process is important (not only for cars), I think. mm. that sounds like BPM.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 20 2014, 01:12 PM - #Permalink
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    One of the major benefits on "BPM" with good adaptive supporting software with real time monitoring is that it supports the management style of what is called "Systems Thinking". Such an approach is about a bottom up empowerment of people and was used by Dr W Edwards Deming who was credited as instrumental in the spectacular rise of Japanese industry after World War II and influenced many of the world's most innovative managers in the ensuing decades. This booklet is a good read http://www.transformationforum.org/pdfs/managing_transformation_means_transforming_management_sopk2.pdf I have no idea of the scale of what went wrong at GM but sounds highly unlikely they had adopted such a management style? Like many big companies with “command and control” management they would be largely driven by inflexible user unfriendly “IT systems” (ERP is a good example). In this environment when processes go wrong to the extent as suggested then it could be very costly? Adoption of BPM is transformational and now the software exists to support and help to deliver better results for all?
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 20 2014, 02:09 PM - #Permalink
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    I suggest that you read Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The Battle for the Soul of American Business, in which Bob Lutz, the former Vice Chairman of General Motors, argues that to get the U.S. economy growing again, they need to fire the MBAs and let engineers run the show. That's what is wrong with process ... it kills innovation. More here: http://isismjpucher.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/agile-and-scrum-versus-the-god-complex/
    • David Chassels
      more than a month ago
      Max
      Here we go again..... sorry that is old thinking with old inflexible software technology. Once users and their managers realize that change is easy then innovation starts at ground level as users are encouraged to think outside the box how to better achieve their business goals.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, March 20 2014, 03:13 PM - #Permalink
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    I'm calling a Time Out. The phrase "The Process" is quite overloaded here. Very nebulous. This is "process" in the most general sense of the word, not an operational process that we typically deal with per se. This is process at the strategy & Planning level or more likely the management level, but not at the execution nor operational level. Sure, the above comments could be applied to many of the smaller process in PLM, ECO, ERM, GRC, sourcing, manufacturing, or even a quick & dirty process app for whistle-blowers, but would that have made a difference? Or, was this a cultural thing? I don't see that How they designed, planned, procured, made, sold made a difference. It's the people making these decisions outside any formal process. Max. While I have seen Engineers kicked under the table by project managers in front of client managers, (at a Nuke plant!), the worst managers I knew were Engineers who got promoted. (I are an Enggenner and an MBA) Innovation in the middle of chaos and real carefully engineered safety doesn't reach consumers quickly, it takes a LONG time to get out of R&D and to have the engineers stop tweaking things to release them. A balance is best and "culture eats process for lunch." In the end, this could have been about either safety vs profit or simply negligence. What is that saying, "never attribute to malice what is adequately explained by stupidity?" So, Industrial organizations can leverage BPM to have a better handle on operations. There are many functional steps in each with manual intervention and integration to the systems. It takes a proper balance of BPM in and around the deep functional applications for those business areas I mentioned to have the most flexible, visible and automated operations. And, having that better handle through visibility and control can 1. raise issues up in the open and 2. give one the flexibility to make changes for safety, quality, fun and profit. But, ya gotta want it. Or, you will end up doing very successful BPM projects and still having bad strategic decisions made. In the end, I support what David said above because the Deming approach took into account the culture or psychology. So, Yes, it would have helped, but not enough without other management aspects.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Friday, March 21 2014, 07:25 AM - #Permalink
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    Agreeing with some of the comments above, I would recommend establishing some priorities. Thus, from the perspective of GM I believe it should first invest in a basic structure of BPM to establish the link between strategy and its operationalization. Second, introducing a policy of quality/six sigma combined with BPM, in order to minimize defects as from received spares from other suppliers, as in the assembly process, and then the final product. In this case, maybe it's not necessary many questionnaires for "listen" to customers about the characteristics they most value. Given the successful, security feature becomes certainly one of the most valued by customers, and therefore should be introduced throughout the value chain , from suppliers of spares until the final product delivery and after sales services. Thus, allows to detect anomalies early, which will cost less to GM and offer assurance greater safety for its customers, increasing their satisfaction. As a third priority, then recommended the addition of a risk policy (ERM) as an added dimension of BPM, especially a perspective of risk predictive, encouraging its employees to identify risks and potential losses (e.g., financial compensation to customers), with the objective of minimizing them through the implementation of controls.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Friday, March 21 2014, 04:38 PM - #Permalink
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    Peter, great thought experiment.

    We have a reference to "process" by the senior executive of a company, who by their own admission concedes errors, errors which resulted in the worst possibly outcomes for purchasers of vehicles.

    1. IS IT APPROPRIATE TO TALK ABOUT PROCESS HERE? I agree that the use of the word process here is legitimate, although as some of your correspondents have pointed out, the process we are talking about is at a very high level. But as any readers of my posts elsewhere may recall. business process management is the core of what business is about, and that includes design for safety.

    2. GOVERNANCE BEFORE PROCESS -- This situation highlights what is often a challenge in selling BPM. Selling BPM is my business. Because BPM is about the core of business, any business dysfunctions will be captured -- or not -- in the business process. For example, one may identify an opportunity to "sell some software to automate a process" -- but said process touches multiple departments. What do you think that there's no process owner? And no process owner, no sale. Or consider inter-company purchases and fulfillment processes (EDI AS2, ebXML and RosettaNET etc.); a great idea, but the adoption of such processes only happens when you have a strong "anchor", such as Walmart or GM -- because such processes are so complex.

    In the case of the car company at hand, I think it's a little disingenuous of the CEO to blame process; process is merely the carrier of corporate values and the expression of corporate commitment to a way of doing business.

    I have no doubt that the appointment of GM's new CEO is a great thing for GM and the NA auto industry generally. But I don't think BPM will "prevent anything like this from happening again" - that's too much of a burden on BPM.

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