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It would be nice, if it were possible to have process improvement initiatives without any problems. However, that is not the world we live in. Process paradise can run into several problems. Watch out for these potential snakes hissing in your process garden:

“Step on the snake’s tail and it will bite you.”  The customers are the most important stakeholders for any organization, because they pay for the organization to exist. So, do not step on the tail of that snake or it will bite you back with poisonous teeth. Process improvement is to be used to provide better customer experiences.

“Culture of snakes.” Many people do not like change, but culture of change is very important for process improvement.  All the employees of your organization must be convinced that they are in the change business. People who believe that process improvement is not their job create problems. It is impossible to retain old habits of working when world around organization changes all the time due to globalization, Internet, etc.

“You cannot use a submarine to kill a snake.” Watch out for mismatch between new methods or tools and the work. Remember to apply proper project management techniques to direct your 6sigma initiative’s scope, standards, schedule and levels of risk. Start with end in mind.

“Focusing only on the costs of snakeskin boots is not effective.” Do not use process improvement solely to do cost reduction. Cost is just one factor in the equation, although it is important. Do not be so focused on cost that you overlook opportunities to add customer value. Remember, that cost comes from doing things that do not benefit the customer.

“How many stripes does that snake have?” Management can become more fascinated with statistical measures than with the actual process, not to mention the customer. Management has to understand that better quality does not come merely through the use of more sophisticated statistics. It is also about the colors of snake’s stripes.

“Finding the snake’s lair is a serious job.” Process improvement also can fail if teams do not care about root cause analysis. The natural tendency for people is to jump from identifying a problem to finding a solution, without first addressing the root cause. You may kill one snake, but you are leaving rest of them to appear again.

“I don’t care about the snakes!” Lack of top and middle management commitment will cause serious problems.  Implementing a process improvement program requires top management’s support or otherwise you are doomed to fail.

“I’m blaming the other snake killers!” Consultants can help to adapt process improvement methods. A greater danger is that the entire responsibility for the process improvement program will be put on the consultants. Management must accept ongoing involvement and do their share in snake killing. Consultants can help in showing the flashlight into dark lair, but management has to walk in it

“Be gentle on the snakes and tell them to leave the paradise.” Do not neglect the so-called “soft skills” of communication and human interaction. Great statistical measurements will not do you much good, if people lack meeting skills, cannot communicate and are not able to work together. Also put strong emphasis on customer communications.

“Indifferent snakes do harm.” Employees need training that creates true behavioral change, not programs that just hand out information. Information and skills are worthless without being put to practice.

“Holding the snake from the tail will cause problems.” Poor quantity and/or quality of training will cause wrong working habits. Process improvement program needs sufficient, appropriate resources, including training, so people learn to use new tools and methods properly. And this means everyone in an organization.

As you can see, many kinds of snakes can live in process paradise. If any of them seem familiar to you, maybe you should spend few minutes thinking about what are you going to do about it? Remember, it is not the thoughts, but the appropriate actions that you will take after thinking, which will bring the results to your garden.

PS: No snakes were harmed while writing this article :)

 

Get Janne Ohtonen's latest BPM book for free at http://addvalueto.me/download-a-free-process-leadership-book/

I started to write my PhD thesis on Business Process Management (BPM) capability factors a year ago. First thing I came across was that there are loads of different methods and terms like Process Excellence, Performance Improvement, Six Sigma, Business Process Reengineering, Lean, Business Process Engineering, Customer Expectation Management and Business Process Management in the process improvement domain. And all of them claim to be the best one!

I can believe that out there are many process professionals who switch back and forth between different methods fearing that we are simply involved in a consulting activity that will have a new name in few years, and feeling confident that we are well on the way to being a profession with a recognized core body of knowledge and best practices.

It seems that at the moment Business Process Management (BPM) is most likely to evolve as a sustainable concept that embraces all of the earlier methods, that is supported by an established body of knowledge and best practices that is recognized and embraced by organizations worldwide. Frankly speaking most of the BPM methods do not differ that much and that is the reason why we begin to see new terms like “Lean Six Sigma”, “Lean and Kanban”, “Six Sigma on Steroids”, etc. All those are joining the different parts together to make one method. Business Process Management has never been any one single term, it’s been always little ambivalent. It contains bits and pieces from many of other methods, thus it is a great candidate for a common term.

It is difficult for consultants to market and sell a comprehensive BPM solution because we are often dealing with organizations that seek to play one BPM approach against another. Customers are confused how is your BPM approach different from Lean or Six Sigma, and why should they use BPM at all. It is many times difficult to explain that BPM is a more comprehensive approach to process improvement than any single method and it is focused on integrating, aligning, managing and measuring all of an organization’s business processes and that Business Process Management includes the application of all the other available methods, where, when and how they are appropriate. BPM is an approach that is inclusive, not exclusive, of other approaches. So, it is not BPM against Six Sigma, Lean or any other but it is BPM with all the previously mentioned methods. Any good process consultant can use those parts of any method that will serve their customer best. Thus, my advice is not to take a consultant that is selling you any locked down approach, unless you are sure that it will fit your needs.

While writing my PhD thesis and taking courses on BPM in different universities, I have noticed that the trend that speaks mostly on Business Process Management’s behalf is the emergence of academic programs that are focused on understanding and teaching of BPM. Academic programs, when done properly, provide an objective and neutral source of information about process change. They provide research that invalidate some the claims of certain approaches being better than others, and validates those approaches that are proven to be effective when properly applied to specific situations. The BPM capability factors that I am doing research on seem to be valid over different methods also, process improvement being the most center thing.

The answer to the central question in this article in my humble opinion is that: “Yes, joining all the best BPM methods together is possible”. That model is still to be done, but clearly so many methods overlap each other that people are already creating hybrids of them. The best consultants know this and are able to help organizations in any way they can, most appropriately to the situation.

 

Get Janne Ohtonen's latest BPM book for free at http://addvalueto.me/download-a-free-process-leadership-book/

Would you like to create better customer experience for your organization’s customers by changing your business processes? Here are seven ideas what you could do to take your customer experience to the next level:

Make a connection with your customers: A personal connection with customers creates an emotional bond, regardless of the channel the customer is using. For example, many organizations have instructed their employees to greet customers within 15 seconds and engage those who would like to have a dialog about their interests. But be careful not to fall into that classical dialog trap: “Good day, sir! How may I help you?” … “Hi, no thanks, I am just looking around.”. How can you make your customers truly welcome?

Get rid of stupid rules: Get rid of any processes that hurt customers. “Getting rid of one or more of these rules can quickly and cost-efficiently increase satisfaction”, the Customer Expectation Management (CEM) professionals say. For example, using CEM Method hundreds of organizations have been able to get rid of useless rules that hurting the business.

Inject the unexpected into service or product:“Adding some small cool things to give service a twist is a simple and inexpensive way to give your customer experience a positive vibe”, suggests CEO of a retail company in Finland. She says that an imaginatively differentiated product or service can be an engaging element of the customer experience and can encourage recommendations. One hotel chain has greeting card under each bed, which says: “Yes, we clean here, too!”

Use online communities for your benefit: You can get really good insight through online communities and forums. Your customers will Google you, so why don’t you also? It is important to listen to customers’ conversations in social media to gain a better understanding of customers’ behaviors, needs, and preferences.

Find passion internally: You should search your organization internally for customer champions rather than only relying on outside experts. The best data and the insights that you need to carry out customer experience activities are right within your own organization. You should appoint  a customer experience leader and designate her/him to form and lead a centralized customer experience team.

Reuse the buzz that customers are creating for you: Nowadays many organizations  are realizing that when it comes to the Internet, social media, and online technology, they should take an “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach and go where customers already are. This way, customer discussions across multiple social networks are centralized in a single searchable space. In practice, this means that a comment or an article submitted by a customer on your Facebook page or Twitter feed becomes available to your website and other places, too.

Leverage analytics and reporting tools:  Too many organizations have gathered a lot of information in their CRM systems without using them properly. A quick way to gain a strong lead in customer experience is to use analytics and reporting tools to look at this information. For example, Best Buy used a reporting tool early on in the economic downturn to understand why more customers were applying for financing for their purchases, but there also was a drop in purchases costing more than 1,000 USD.

Here are some reflective questions you can use to think about how you could create better customer experience:

  • Do you connect with your customers in a genuine, meaningful way?
  • Do you rules or processes that you should get rid of?
  • Do you evaluate your customer experience periodically?
  • Do you have some little extra things in your services or products that customer appreciate?
  • Are people in your organization passionate to promote your organization online?
  • Are you reusing the good customer experiences that your customers share?
  • Do you use your CRM and customer data efficiently?

 

Get Janne Ohtonen's latest BPM book for free at http://addvalueto.me/download-a-free-process-leadership-book/

In the business process management (BPM) world the ability to simultaneously grow revenues, reduce costs and improve service is called a Triple Crown. It is a direct consequence of implementing advanced process management.
A 21st century company shifts attention from ‘doing things right’ to ‘doing the right things’ and as a consequence, much of the work taking place within a company becomes ‘dumb stuff’ when tested against the KPIs based on the previously mentioned Triple Crown. This ‘dumb stuff’ can be eliminated and typically will result in cost reductions of 40-70% within three to six months after implementation across traditional business processes.

A large slice of reduction is in the potential effort to run a process – the people. It also includes considerable swathes of information technology, now no longer required to manage the significantly simplified ‘Outside-In’ processes.  Saves are also available across the enterprise from reducing the need for ‘outsourcing’ that does not explicitly contribute to the delivery of successful outcomes. Progressive 21st century companies such as IBM, Google, Apple, Gilead Sciences and Southwest Airlines actively redeploy staff to the benefit of the bottom line – making more with less. Service improves and revenues grow.

BPM wins the ‘triple crown’ of saving money, saving time and adding value. BPM is delivering both short-term return on investment (ROI) and long-term value. One example is an insurance company that was able to reduce its claims processing cost by more than 20 percent. We are currently seeing uptake in BPM use and benefits in government, banking, health-care, transportation and travel industries” said Janelle Hill, research vice-president at Gartner

There are many Customer Expectation Management methods available that are easy to implement, as well as very inspiring tools for meaningfully aligning your revenues, costs and service strategies quickly. For example, the CEM Method offers effective tools for analyzing the successful customer outcomes (what your customers really need), moment of truths (customer interactions), breakpoints (internal hand-overs) and business rules. That information is put together and observed through the Outside-In lens, which reveals all the pain points in business processes and customer experience of the organization. After that, innovation tools are used to redesign those processes to meet the customer needs and organization’s strategy, which will lead to getting BPM’s Triple Crown.

 

 

Get Janne Ohtonen's latest BPM book for free at http://addvalueto.me/download-a-free-process-leadership-book/

The innovation management process has become an important part of the operations of many businesses, as the recognition of the importance of initiatives towards innovation has become much more common.
That said, while many companies do attempt to have a solid approach to creativity and innovation, too few actually focus on it as a single function. Instead, they seem to hold many separate activities in isolation, such as brainstorming sessions, pilot projects and campaigns, and vague communication with the market, and simply keep fingers crossed that it will come together in the end. While this has worked for some in the past, it is far from the ideal way of performing this important task. Instead, the best way to accomplish this is to have a set innovation activities which integrates the activity into the regular cycle of your business. The list below shows the phases in innovation management process, which will help your organization to put it all together as one process.

Setting the goals for the process

Innovation always begins with a goal in mind. It is many times based on finding the solution to a problem. Once you have this goal, it should be discussed among everyone in the problem solving team. This team may consist of you and another person, a group of people, or may even be all of your organization’s employees. It may involve others such as your customers (who can provide suggestions and feedback based on their own experience with your product or service) or other stakeholders in the business. When you establish the team for this process, make sure that you have someone representing all the parts of the process from start to the end.

Cooperation

The innovation team should work together so that instead of trying to come up with an idea separately, they can bounce ideas off one another and create a collaborative solution. This can include the use of online tools, attendance of events such as trade shows that can be inspiring and informative, or simply consist of brainstorming sessions. You might  consider having a trained business coach facilitating the discussions. There are many online tools available for real-time document sharing that might help teams that are geographically separated to still have intense cooperation.

Combination of ideas

Once the ideas are in, choose the best ones and then consider whether they can be combined to create an even greater idea. Often, strong ideas will be complementary to one another and will join well to create an even better result. As you know, the whole result can be bigger than its individual parts. And for this combination to work well, you need representatives of all parties involved in the process, because they for sure have ideas that people from other departments could not come up with. Business coaches may be useful here for making sure that all the angles of innovative aspect are covered.

Evaluation of innovation

This is an important and yet all too frequently overlooked aspect of the innovation management process. When the best ideas have been combined, fine-tuned, and polished, it is time to subject them to evaluation based on peer reviews. This helps to ensure that any ideas that have a promising veneer but that are poorly thought out will be identified before resources, funding and time have been poured into them. It also helps to select the ideas with the greatest potential from among several that appear equally capable of being successful. It is cheap to change your innovation at this stage compared to later stages. Each step you take forward will cost you more…

Testing the ideas

Once the ideas with the greatest potential have been identified, they can be tested so that they can be better developed. One of the most common means of testing a product or service idea is to create a prototype or test group. This allows the team, as well as customers and investors to have a better look at how the product will function and what changes can be made to it so that it will be even further improved. Make sure that the product or service not only raises interest but is able to generate orders also. If people say that they are interested in it, then ask them if they give you the order right away.

Execution of innovation implementation

The ideas that survive the testing process can be further developed and altered until they are ready to be executed as a part of the business offerings. The execution of implementation is a step that is unique to your business and, unless your new product causes you to have to drastically alter the typical way that your go-to-market strategy functions, then this part of the innovation management process should be relatively commonplace in your organization. It should be easier for you to move from testing to execution if you were able to generate orders already in testing phase.

Assessment of innovation life-cycle

After the execution of an idea, its implementation needs to be carefully monitored and assessed in terms of a number of milestones that should be set. Should a milestone not be reached, then changes will need to be made or the idea will need to be shut down. Remember to keep always customer in your mind also in execution phase and design your measuring systems so that they measure added value for the customer (you get what you measure and customers weight you based on that!).

 

The next step in the process is simply to start again, always finding new needs, inspiration, solutions and taking them through the cycle until they can be offered by your company. Here are some reflective questions that you can use to evaluate innovation management process in your organization:

  • Do you have a clearly defined innovation management process?
    • If yes, is it effective?
    • If no, how do you see that clearly defined innovation management process could help your organization to achieve goals better?
  • Are all the people in your organization working together towards great innovations or do they do things on their own?
  • Do you always properly evaluate and test your innovations before taking them to market?
  • Do you measure execution of providing services or products from customer’s perspective?

 

Get Janne Ohtonen's latest BPM book for free at http://addvalueto.me/download-a-free-process-leadership-book/

Change strategies are not a new discussion topic, but still they keep people talking about what are the most effective change strategies available and how are they best deployed.  Thurley and Wirdenius identified some key advantages and disadvantages of change management already in 1973, which was summarized by Lockitt and 3T Productions Ltd. (2004) as follows:

Directive change strategy. This strategy highlights the manager’s right to manage change and the use of authority to impose change with little or no involvement of other people. This approach may lead to valuable information and ideas being missed and there is usually strong resentment from staff when changes are imposed rather than discussed and agreed.

Expert change strategy. This approach sees the management of change as a problem solving process that needs to be resolved by an ‘expert’. This approach is mainly applied to more technical problems and will normally be led by a specialist project team or senior manager. There is likely to be little involvement with those affected by the change.

Negotiated change strategy. This approach highlights the willingness on the part of senior managers to negotiate and bargain in order to effect change. Senior managers must also accept that adjustments and concessions may need to be made in order to implement change. This approach acknowledges that those affected by change have the right to have a say in what changes are made, how they are implemented and the expected outcomes.

Educative change strategy. This approach involves changing people’s values and beliefs in order for them to fully support the changes being made and move toward the development of a shared set of organizational values that individuals are willing, and able to support. A mixture of activities will be used: education, persuasion, training and selection, led by consultants, specialists and in-house experts.

Participative change strategy. This strategy stresses the full involvement of all of those involved, and affected by, the anticipated changes. Although driven by senior managers the process will be less management dominated and driven more by groups or individuals within the organization. The views of all will be taken into account before changes are made. Outside consultants and experts can be used to facilitate the process but they will not make any decisions as to the outcomes.

Which one is the best and how is that change strategy deployed?

Well, you might want to ask yourself, which advantages and disadvantages do you want to have? It is quite clear that in this imperfect world there is no perfect change strategy available. However, the participative change strategy seems quite compelling especially because some of the disadvantages found by Thurley and Wirdenius can be overcome with recent methods such as the CEM Method. The benefits of this approach are that any changes made are more likely to be supported due to the involvement of all those affected, the commitment of individuals and groups within the organization will increase as those individuals and groups feel ownership over the changes being implemented. The organization and individuals also have the opportunity to learn from this experience and will know more about the organization and how it functions, thus increasing their skills, knowledge and effectiveness to the organization.

 

 

Get Janne Ohtonen's latest BPM book for free at http://addvalueto.me/download-a-free-process-leadership-book/