As change is one of the most difficult things for companies to do successfully, is continuous process improvement the key to effective change?
To me continuous improvement is about agility. Companies that engage in change programs aren't agile enough to naturally deal with change so they lurch from one big change to another. Unfortunately where I do see CI practiced the staff are rarely empowered to make important decisions so they make minor changes. These are often improvements but not fast or big enough to avoid the dreaded change program. Of course I get paid to work on change programs so perhaps the status quo isn't so bad....
Agree with Anatoly. And you have to be aware that change can have 2 faces:
Change that you initiate like new products or new business models. That is cool change.
And there is change you have to adapt to. Could be legal things, but when it is to keep up with your competitors, it's not such a fun change.
And besides that; improving is not a goal. Doing well is. But 'well' can change in a minute ;-)
I'd say it is the other way around. At least at the start.
Creating a (BPM supportive) change culture is the single most toughest exercise I believe exists. Obviously, things should become easier when such a culture starts running through your company DNA. And, really important: You are in excellent control of the balance of process, people and technology (in that explicit order by the way).
With balance I mean the following: You could have great flexibility (e.g., the best of the best motivated, pro-active and flexible co-workers, e.g., capability), but if you are not in control of managing your processes, you waste an awful lot of time and money. Or: You can have all of the above, but if supported by bad or lousy technology it won't bring you much more... The challenge here is to create a healthy balance, which means that you have to juggle the combination...
And, last but not least: Have a story. Why do we exist (as a business, as a role). If you can't answer the why, start rethinking what the ... you spend your time and money on. Any level.
Continuous process improvement is not key to change.
Change can occur / be needed at the strategy level, the operational level, both, or mandated, so we cannot say that a philosophy of "continuous process improvement" is or should be a driving force.
Corparations should not strive for change for the sake of change.
They should rather be looking inward and outward with a view to improving competitive advantage and making whatever change is essential.
Change costs time/money. It is disruptive. Some changes give positive ROI, others do not. Too much tweaking and you get to instabiliiy and to diminishing returns. Most staff / middle management do not like change.
We need to avoid silos of roving "change artists" with hammers looking for nails.
Change at the front line is inevitable and we all know the existing inflexible silos of data/information in current legacy makes change expensive so people work off line........then submit to these systems. That "gap" can now be filled by BPM thinking supported by next generation Adaptive software. As a side benefit this approach will over time enable retirement of such legacy systems. The benefit is that change becomes readily supported to allow continuous improvement to be ready implemented direct from business users ideas.
As an example some real facts from early adopter in a complex case management running end to end process resulting schedule of payments to be made spread over years. All built in a graphical interface as a map displaying tasks including user interfaces. An analysis after some 12 years showed
75 process maps with 226 over life cycle
2406 associated tasks with 5087 over life cycle
538 user interfaces (forms) with 1114 over life cycle
In effect it is a future proof system and continuous improvement is an accepted way to work. As one internal manager said it is the same system originally installed but now looks quite different! Yes as Karl indicates there does need to be common sense that drives change not the " roving change artists" syndrome!
Interestingly after some 15 years the system in process of changing from client server to web at cost of less than £50k such is the elegance of the architecture.......it is the future.....and game changing but disruptive....and that is the real challenge!
The phrase “process improvement”—and, indeed, the concept itself—reeks of Taylorish incrementalism. Improvement is something you do as you go, like adding a little more salt to the otherwise tasty casserole your spouse whipped up for dinner. You don't put together a committee of stakeholders and hire analysts to determine the root cause of the blandness of the meal, options for improving it, and (having settled on adding salt as the specific improvement to be made), how many shakes of which type of container are required.
It's OK, it's just us here, you can admit it: that's exactly what your company is doing, isn't it?
Bad process is expensive, but so is endless analysis. Forget“process improvement” and focus instead on the technology revolution that is going to transform your business, open new markets, and, oh, by the way, completely reshape your organization's approach to developing business applications.
Continuous improvement and change enablement?
Sure - but unless based on management science and good governance, these fads are likely to become management fetishes implemented as performance art. And there will be little to show for the expenditure of scarce treasure.
TL;DR . . .
So many marvellous comments and stories stimulated by the idea of continuous improvement and change. The egregious Taylorism . . . of casseroles (the micro perspective). The quotidian mundanity of . . . mass and time (the macro perspective). Heraclitus would be proud.
From a business perspective though, obsessing about change as the context for continuous improvement on its own is probably unhelpful. The pursuit of change (or agility or adaptability or continuous improvement or whatever) which is unmoored in theory or science is as helpful as any management fad.
Which isn't to say "unhelpful", but management fads are not likely to get you a competitive edge. And management fads can too easily become fig leaves for the usual suspects of management dysfunction, such as rent seeking and power politics.
Consider the possibility that the idea of continuous improvement in the face of unrelenting change may in fact be a management fad.
As Geoffrey Moore (of "Crossing the Chasm" fame) has written last year, up-ending your business model for the sake of change is an extremely risky proposition. And even the idea that we are living through a time of extraordinary business change is less true than we might think (Frank Cespedes in HBR, also last year).
So, if we are not to treat continous improvement and change as fetishes or performance art, in what way could these ideas be useful?
Dr. Samarin has mentioned "science", and specifically that continuous improvement is the only way to address change "which is based on scientific considerations".
Managers are paid well to think beyond the obsessions of today. That managing should be rational and based in science. Change yes. Continuous improvement yes. And a culture of change, sure. But let's also make sure that the discourse of change is supported by real theory and management science.