Finishing out August, what is the worst advice you can give someone trying to improve their processes?
Set up a project for it, hire some cool consultants to do it, but absolutely give them a room in another building, so all those process improvement initiatives don't disturb your daily business.
Your entire organization is wrongly set-up, let's blow the whole thing up, and let our very experienced consultants rebuild everything according to industry-standards in our mature proprietary BPMS!
Oh, and forget about interfaces, no one cares about those, since they're on the intranet!
Analyst: This process could be done many different ways, which is the best?
Bad Advice: Just pick one and implement it. It does not matter.
The recipe to make a cake has many ingredients. You want to write them in the order to be combined, but which order. If you know nothing about baking a cake, you might think they could be done in any order, so to make it orderly you put them in alphabetical order. However, if you do know how to make a cake, you know there is a proper order.
What happens is that the analyst is attempting to discover the process from the organzation, and no single person know the entire process, nor the entire set of reasons that something is done a certain way. I have seen many times when the analyst has what appear to be a set of independent tasks, and can not determine the order. Among managers, there is a feeling of "just do it". Managers often will make a list of tasks in an arbitrary order when the order is not obvious to them. In the case these orders are done manually by workers who DO know the proper order, the workers will often do them in the right order in spite of the worklist being in the wrong order.
The problem with a BPM system is that it often over prescribes the order. Sometimes activities can not be started until the previous activity is complete. This can make a process unworkable even a very simple one.
The point to remember is that no single person can know all the details of a large process. Don't put anything into order unless you have a good reason to. Leave the order ambiguous if you don't have a reason. And by all means, don't put tasks in a strict order just becuase you think the order does not matter.
Don't bother mapping your current state: there is absolutely nothing your senior managers do not already know by heart, there are no immediate savings to be found, any baselines for measuring future improvements are irrelevant, and it won't help shape your thinking on the future. Just ignore it.
As Mr. Schooff says, this discussion "is on fire". So far I note that unthinking agilism and code-centricity and arms-length consulting have all earned honours as "bad advice".
So, now on the long-tail of comments, what more to add? How about this?
BAD ADVICE: "Regardless if we are talking about software technology or management programmes, process improvement is just more of the same. Yesterday was inventory control, today is customer service processes and tomorrow is quarterly closings. There's nothing special as such about process improvement or process improvement technology. So anyone can do it, just give it to IT and they'll do some interviews and you'll have a great result. Don't worry about your commitments, I know you're swamped."
Most of the "bad advice" proferred in today's Forum question relates to destruction of value -- i.e. recipes for project failure or mission failure of both. The "bad advice" offered in this reply however is on the other end of the spectrum, and concerns the missed opportunity, or opportunity cost. BPM as technology and methodology is a discipline which is uniquely about the work of business. As I like to say, "BPM is the technology where the concepts of process and work are first-class citizens of that technology". Getting the most out of BPM and process improvement means first of all an acknowledgement that BPM exists! And following from that, there's a whole schedule of things to do to step up to the BPM opportunity. Failure to recognize the radical opportunity and demands that BPM presents contributes to disappointing process improvement and BPM results.