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The Responsive Organization recently came out with a manifesto that states:
As the flow of information increases, companies are gaining competitive advantages by shifting their focus from efficiency to their ability to learn and respond rapidly to new information. Companies today are realizing that adaptability and iteration speed are paramount, necessitating a fundamental rethinking of corporate structures and information systems.
What are your thoughts?
Tuesday, September 24 2013, 09:53 AM
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, September 24 2013, 10:07 AM - #Permalink
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    Adaptability is the key in any industries where change is happening quickly, but I wouldn't say it is the primary concern where work undergoes few changes. The problem I have is finding an industry of any real size that isn't being changed very quickly by the combined effects of mobility, cloud computing, and big data. For most large organizations today, and especially for international or global businesses, the rapid pace of change makes adaptability a critical part of BPM. There will be those who argue, especially the Lean/SS crowd, but I think efficiency has taken a back seat to adaptability for most of the organizations I described.
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    Tuesday, September 24 2013, 10:09 AM - #Permalink
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    What is more important to BPM is the business requirements of the users. If those are adaptability, then adaptability is most important. But in many cases efficiency drives business cases and that will remain the most important. BPM practitioners constantly need to remember that a vendor's own needs should be driven by its consumers, and that those needs may vary depending on the point of view. Back-office, customer, management all have different needs and desires, and the business requirements and associated solutions should balance all of these.
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    Tuesday, September 24 2013, 10:09 AM - #Permalink
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    Effectiveness is more important than efficiency, and effectiveness often requires adaptability.
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    Tuesday, September 24 2013, 10:21 AM - #Permalink
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    Adaptability is the way to efficiency when the organization is complex. This is not a contradiction of the original question, but rather an explanation, and a slightly different use of the word efficiency. A focus on efficiency to the exclusion of all else, leads one to a centralized kind of designed efficiency. Designed efficiency focuses on performing repeatable activities over and over the same way in order to get a large quantity of small benefits to add up to something significant. On Henry Ford's assembly line it was very important that each station perform a specific function and nothing more than that. When you look to support complex organizations you deal with situations which are not predictable. A focus on repeating the same thing over and over leads to inefficiency and waste. Instead, you have to design an organization with adaptiveness, in order that the intelligence of the knowledge worker is allowed to find the most efficient path. I was re-reading Christopher Alexander's wonderful book "A Timeless Way of Building" where he describes how cities (and communities, and buildings) are formed. To make a great city, you don't enforce any kind of designed efficiency. Instead, based on a set of basic principles, you let the citizens form the city. The way he puts it:
    "It is a process that brings order out of nothing but ourselves; it can not be attained, but will happen of its own accord, if we will only let it."
    In any big city, bread is baked and delivered to stores and restaurants. "Who designed the bread delivery process?" Of course, nobody did, not in any central way. However, bread delivery is accomplished, and it is not really that inefficient. The bread delivery process was designed by Alexander's "Timeless Way of Building" which, as it turns out, involves a healthy dose of adaptiveness. http://social-biz.org/2010/07/05/adaptive-designed-for-change/ In the big picture, adaptiveness is really just design for change, and change is an imperative in complex systems.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, September 24 2013, 10:58 AM - #Permalink
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    It's not one or the other. More often than not it's both. Efficiency, market directions, both. Depends upon the business, the consumer, the app. I would submit that both are pieces of a larger construct - "ability." Three simple words - "follow the money." /.02
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, September 24 2013, 11:02 AM - #Permalink
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    I see no reason why you can't become efficient and adaptable, or even efficient at adapting and responding to change. Pointless sacrificing one for the other.
    Companies today are realizing that adaptability and iteration speed are paramount, necessitating a fundamental rethinking of corporate structures and information systems.
    Not true, they've realized this for years, they just didn't have the tools and enablers available in such abundance as they did before. The flaw here is forcing a change in corporate structure when coexistence can occur. There are formal and informal network structures at work in organizations today, it's the informal ones that need to be an integral part of the flexibility and adaptability that BPM seeks to take advantage of. You can have efficient corporate structures and highly adaptive informal ones in the same company without sacrifice.
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    • Keith Swenson
      more than a month ago
      Yes! Organizational gurus have known this for decades, but it was only with the introduction of IT systems that people started to focus on oversimplified models of the organization. It is time to get back to the real world.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, September 24 2013, 11:08 AM - #Permalink
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    Efficiency and agility are both required. In order to maximize agility, one must be efficient. A lack of efficiency permits unnecessary processes, non value add (NVA) activities and other behaviors which impede efficacy. Potentially, a balance between 100% efficiency and agility needs to be struck, but I think agility starts with efficiency. I'm not a mechanic, but if my car is not maintained correctly (e.g., tune-up, fluid replacement, etc.), it will not run efficiently. How could I hope to compete in an SCCA event weaving around a tight course of turns while my engine is sputtering and "running rich" (too much fuel, not enough air). Organizations are no different. Cheers
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    Tuesday, September 24 2013, 11:16 AM - #Permalink
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    Efficiency and Adaptability....highly overrated....I just want to do the same things for 20 years and want to waste a lot of time and money on it. But my competitors don't allow me to earn a living that way, so be aware adaptability and efficiency are both means, not goals. Some organizations need them more than others. So always return to the essence. What do we promise and what style of processes do we need to make this happen? Is 'being the cheapest' your strategy, efficiency is probably your means to work on that. Is 'being innovative' what you want, creating adaptability seems a better action. And I think you can even think of mixes between them. And for sure, in some processes, IT will help you with that. But I should start with the essence. Otherwise you might start all kind of investments in making things efficient that are replaced every week.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, September 24 2013, 11:17 AM - #Permalink
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    I see "adaptive" has two key features that can deliver efficiency. First the focus on the users being supplied with information specific for that task in a logical way reflecting how information is used and how new information is entered i.e. the "BPM" supporting technology "adapts" to user requirements just making it easier thus more efficient to use. The other key element is ability to change the process as and when required encouraging feed back and new ideas from users or as the market changes dictate. So adaptability is more important knowing efficiency will follow?
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, September 24 2013, 12:01 PM - #Permalink
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    As our (bQuind) pay-off says 'flexibility where possible, stability where needed'. The focus of BPM is not shifting from efficiency towards effectiveness but in my opinion rather the scope and focus is broadening to efficiency, effectiveness and adaptability / flexibility.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, September 24 2013, 01:51 PM - #Permalink
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    Adaptability and efficiency go hand in hand. A process can be efficient providing consistent results over a period of time. With any changes surrounding it, the efficiency of the process can be reduced if it is too rigid. Processes should be developed with adaptability in mind. If a process cannot adapt, it will lose its' efficiency in time, some faster than others. Adapting to change is necessary to continue being efficient, which doesn't mean to attain the same exact results as previously but to continue on delivering a successful result to the stakeholder. One thing to consider is response time to change. If you can't adapt fast enough then the process will be outdated, thus reducing the capability to perform as intended. So to answer, is adaptability more important? My opinion is no. It is an important area to think about during planning a process.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, September 24 2013, 04:19 PM - #Permalink
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    There are two arguments for Agility being the primary tool of BPM Efficiency is often the end goal while agility is the means to getting there. Often efficiency can only be reached in incremental steps, first automate the process, then bring in integration, then use root cause analysis to identify more areas of improvement. Without the agility of operations and toolsets, you can never achieve this ultimate goal. The other aspect of agility is adapting to your competitors, not only lowering costs, but being able to adapt to a whole new way of working, when they change the game. Look at formula one racing, manufacturers must constantly to adapt to new technology and rule changes, last years model just won't win with new rules or innovations in car design. Industry is no different, constant changes in regulation and product innovation demand that you are vigilant and able to adapt. Those who move quickly often have first mover advantage.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Tuesday, September 24 2013, 11:16 PM - #Permalink
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    In my opinion, the thought on the two (Adaptability and Efficiency) to be competing against each other is a thing of the past. In the new world of fast growth, fast change and increasing competitive advantage, adaptability became part of efficiency.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 25 2013, 12:53 AM - #Permalink
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    I have to agree with Emiel - adaptability is a means to an end. It may be a nice shorthand to call it a goal, but it isn't really. It is the means to achieving business results in a climate that is either unpredictable or in the process of change that leaves one uncertain about the best way to optimize for the future. Or, more generally, adaptability is useful when the goal state for process or business is "hypothesized" rather than "known"...
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 25 2013, 03:02 AM - #Permalink
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    Adaptability/flexibility is a tool to achieve desired effectiveness and efficiency. It should be one of the most important characteristics of information systems and, finally, business systems. This necessitates the up-front architecting for flexibility. BPM “guides” such architecture to assembling (ideally, dynamically) solutions from off-the-shelf, rented, existing and newly implemented building blocks. Thanks, AS
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  • Accepted Answer

    Wednesday, September 25 2013, 08:07 AM - #Permalink
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    To be honest I do not agree with that statement in the manifesto. Hardly any large companies are at this stage. When we talk to people who are for example responsible for shared service centers they see adaptability as the demon. Both in terms of standardization and in giving users (which they consider to be cheap, dumb clerks) authority to make decisions. Data and content is stored in silos and any transitions that connect them to the customer are to be reduced with a target of zero. Then they recommend to use big-data to figure out which customers are prone to jump ship because of the lack of service. For them BPM is about cost cutting and case management is for expensive knowledge work that they want to get rid off. They see no need for any kind of adaptability or ACM. That is still the majority mindset and the large consulting companies are being paid billions a year to apparently save billions in optimized processes. I am a very positive person always believing in the best in everyone and I am not jaded at all. But this is simply the UGLY TRUTH! These people at C, SVP and VP level do not even understand when one tries to explain the benefits of dealing in an embedded fashion with process variations. 'We do WORKFLOW and it does all we need!' is the tenor. The bigger questions are therefore how to measure efficiency and how to define adaptability. These people focus on efficiency as it is easer to define and understand. The closer the measurement boundaries (time and space) are set the easier it seems to make things efficient. Clearly it makes no sense to measure efficiency if the measured process does not deliver the outcome. But as it happens that is done all the time to document success. Adaptability is not a function and thus abstract. Changing the process during the design or improvement cycle IS NOT adaptation. Adaptation is also not ad-hoc modification, but it refers to the ability to support the learning organization. Peformers can modify processes and they can be retained for future use. That does not mean that anyone can modify any process, but if the targets, goals or outcomes require a change then it should be possible to adapt (modify to achieve and then retain for reuse). So the first step in any process effort is to define strategic objectives, financial targets, process goals and customer outcomes. Ideally they are transparent and well-defined entities in the process management environment. Normally they are not known by BPM performers or CM knowledge workers and therefore they have little use for adaptability. We are far away from organizations employing any kind of large scale adaptability and much of it is documented in the employee disconnect in most large businesses.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Thursday, September 26 2013, 01:52 PM - #Permalink
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    It has been a while...the new site is awesome, even though I had to recreate myself...I'll get over it.;) Adaptability and iteration are kernel to any process management endeavor. Both come out of knowing the end goal and the strategy of getting there. Together they facilitate short term and long term sustainability. It not only applies to physical systems, the concept encompasses the architecture of the organization where everything is relative.
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  • Accepted Answer

    Eli Stutz
    Eli Stutz
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    Tuesday, November 05 2013, 03:10 AM - #Permalink
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    Efficiency and BPM are hard to separate. In some ways, BPM is all about making operations more efficient. This is its primary purpose. So its hard to say that efficiency is not number one when it comes to the aspects of successful BPM. That said, in each time period there are specific other elements which become almost just as important. Today, that aspect is adaptability. Companies who cannot adapt, will sink. Intelligent BPM software enables such adaptation and is essential to company's survival. It's like Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than Knowledge." How can such important concepts really compete with each other? (That's a rhetorical question). Bottom line: both are tantamount to a project's success.
    • David Chassels
      more than a month ago
      Agreed but let's have some clear expectations as to what "intelligent" actually means in business language..... removing the hype!
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