1. Peter Schooff
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  3. Thursday, May 22 2014, 09:55 AM
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The title of this article about Peter Deng joining Facebook, how true is this statement, and what is the best way to avoid such an outcome?
Faun deHenry Accepted Answer
Blog Writer
The most important statement in the entire article was at the end. "Revisit and revise all of the processes and policies you’ve created so that nothing becomes too permanent."

I think all of us can agree that process becomes inordinately restrictive and bureaucratic in many organizations. Periodic review and revision is healthy. It also helps the organization and its employees with staying relevant.

Now, to the question above: An effective process design is the result of collaboration among all participants in the process. In addition, it's good practice for all of the participants to review, and possibly revise, the process as business needs and goals change.
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Scott Francis Accepted Answer
Blog Writer
It's a good article, but it isn't about process - it is about structure. Weekly meetings aren't process. they're overhead. Deng has a process for re-assessing what's needed - which starts with canceling all the structured activities and time sinks and reassessing root cause.

The problem isn't what he thinks, the problem is that he is misappropriating the word "process" to describe stuff that isn't process :)
Agree. The sentence 'process isn’t only about meetings or bureaucracy.' summarizes well that he has a very limited view on process.
  1. Emiel Kelly
  2. 3 years ago
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Patrick Lujan Accepted Answer
Blog Writer
Read the article, sounds a lot like Scrum. <shrug>
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BPM Mentor Accepted Answer
I believe Scott (along with Mr. Poulin sense of humour) hit the nail on the head! This article is not about BPM. And to be honest, I am quite disappointed to read that a professional with such a background misuses the words in such a way. No wonder for the end results...
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George Chast Accepted Answer
Agree with most of above. It wasn't misuse, just mis-association. The word "Process" is heavily overloaded in our world. This guy is talking about daily process, reporting process, problem solving process and brainstorming process. There is a point in any venture where the Operations Manager steps in and the Trusted Professional / "Knowledge Worker" feels constrained. If that happens when the Guild approach of training apprentices is being overwhelmed, that can be a good thing. Likewise, the use of our process discipline to help there, or to go back into existing areas and help drive consistency, reduce wasted time and alleviate training is a good thing. I understand how he feels, but like you all said, his context and BPM are orthogonal.
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The statement “Is Process Being Told What to Do by Someone Who Has Less Information Than You?” reminded me how the Chinese culture is described by a Chinese person (from the IT domain) – “we do what we see”. From this cultural position (and with an assumption that the author was influenced by this culture), this sentence is perfectly correct.

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Amy Barth Accepted Answer
To the question at hand, without Peter Deng's article getting in the way, the answer is "sometimes." Process can refer to many different aspects of business, so the frame of reference is important.

Sometimes no one knows why a process is so complicated until an outsider points out the obvious streamlining that can remove some of the tangled webs of non-linear processes. And in this case, having that less-informed person point out the obvious becomes an asset to process improvement.

As it relates to business management processes, these may arise from some report somewhere that indicated something was broken, faulty, or identified as a "pain point" in some lessons learned finding. In this case, I can see how "someone who knows less that I do" may decide to come up with a solution in the form of some process that doesn't make much sense in reality. I think this may be where Mr. Deng is coming from. I have sat in many a meeting wondering what purpose it is actually meant to serve, and often times the answer was along the lines of "our project management plan indicates that we must have a recurring weekly meeting to address risks and issues" regardless of there actually BEING any risks or issues. In this instance, the less-informed person has created an obstacle to productivity by bogging down x number of people with pointless meetings.

But, my reaction to Mr. Deng's article was along the lines of my fellow forum members. He's not really talking about process. He's talking about being more agile. And that's great when the culture is yours to manipulate. I've not yet had the opportunity to work in a creative workplace--it's all healthcare and government in my neck of the woods, so the other concepts described by Deng are fun to think about, but not something I'd anticipate in my line of business.
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Peter Johnston Accepted Answer
Look at the standard methodology for the two big process disciplines - Six Sigma and Lean.
In both cases a self-professed expert pushes aside the people operating the process and says "I know better".

Then he imposes a standard methodology he learned at college or on a training course.
Assuming that their methodology is the same as the company down the road.

Is that any way to build a competitive advantage?

This exposes an arrogance which was common in the autocratic company era.
It goes right back to the beginning of the industrial revolution.
Workers streamed off the land to the factories. Only to be treated as slaves.
People who knew nothing, couldn't learn anything and weren't to be trusted.

The structures those companies set up persist to this day.
The idea that people operating a process know nothing.
That knowledge they gain in their day-to-day operations is worth nothing.
The only managers have the training and ability to make decisions.
And that consultant knowledge trumps daily experience.

To me it is like sexism or racism. Perhaps topical today with the elections.
When you stay apart, you think "I'm better than them".
But when you get together you find "Hey these guys are OK after all".
"Well actually they have some good ideas".

In his book Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki reported that if a group of three people of mixed ability was given a problem to solve they got better results than if an expert was asked. Consistently.

While you've been off learning Lean, or Six Sigma, or BPM, the people doing the process have been listening to the customers. To eachother. Seeing where the process is going wrong. Working out ways to fix it or render it obsolete.

But because of autocratic company structures they aren't allowed to change it.
They have to stay on the burning platform until management decides the flames are high enough.

That's cruel. And nothing is more guaranteed to create demotivated, disengaged employees.
Never mind cutting off your greatest source of intelligence to improve your process.
Dynamic Process
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I'm glad I've been working with different companies (for and with) than you have, and different lean and six sigma experts. The good ones spend more time listening and learning than telling people what to do or imposing their approach. This reads like a knee-jerk reaction against a methodology because you've run into practitioners that are heavy handed and aren't "doing it right."
  1. Scott Francis
  2. 3 years ago
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David Chassels Accepted Answer
I see the article more about new product ideas than "process" and yes this “When you solve a problem or create a process, there is always an expiration date.” I agree with above sentiments more about structure and I would add "empowerment" where feed back is "monitored" to achieving ever changing goals?

Monitoring may be as simple as time and in an environment where sharing knowledge seems to be important. A concept that should apply in most processes. But as ever there is always someone who will have more information but good collaboration should avoid the "less information" problem as articulated?
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Max J. Pucher Accepted Answer
Blog Writer
Peter Deng is a wise man with an entrepreureal spirit. BPM proponents are bureaucrats. What do you want for your business?

1) Process does not produce an outcome, it just produces a complete process as that is the only thing that is defined. As the process does not adjust itself to the current context, the outcome that it produces is in most cases not what is really needed. Only if the peformers work towards a well-define goal and outcome and can adjust the the process to achieve that then a process WILL produce the desired outcome.

2) If the processes are defined through its goals and outoomes and not rigid flows then they are adjusted by the performers continuously to match current needs. If performers can save modified processes as new templates then the organisation has continuous improvement without a large, expensive and slow BPM bureaucracy!

3) The probklem is that too many BPM 'experts' believe that BPM is about strictly-defined and standardized processes. BPM is about achieving outcomes. Strictly defined processes are purely a silly idea by people who never sat down and had to do what the business performers need to do. They live in a process illusion. They do not understand the human aspects of purposeful collaboration (aka as doing business). BPM turns performers into fools with tools.

4) BPM is not about discipline and enforcement.Process management is about supporting top-down transparency for business objectives, targets and process goals/outcomes and bottom-up transparency for the actual real-world collaborationt hat achieves those.

5) In most cases processes are too complicated because too many people thell other people what to do. If you just tell people what they need to deliver (outcome) and leave them to it, there are very few that will do more than is necessary but rather do it with the least amount of effort. So the process must just define the handovers between the performers (goals/outcomes() and leave them to do it their way. Then the natural tendency to select the most efficient way to do something can come into play.

6) SIxSigma and LEAN are the two methodlogies that have turned businesses into bureaucratic monsters that are no longer able to service customers well and innovate where necessary. They have some place in manufacturing but should be completely ignored for processes that involve human interaction.
To #6 - sixsigma and lean are just tools. Only people and lack of leadership can turn businesses into bureaucratic monsters. I've seen lean and six-sigma applied to great results. But i've also seen it applied badly and rejected by the org as a result. The difference wasn't the "methodology" but the people who are responsible for applying it. Not unlike entrepreneurship (the good ones separated from the bad ones by the people, not the fact that their entrepreneurs or in startups) or BPM (good results and bad results separated mostly by the people).
  1. Scott Francis
  2. 3 years ago
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John Morris Accepted Answer
One doesn't have to scratch very far to reveal warring tribes in the land of work. BPM proponents are slave drivers! Or useless bureaucrats! On on the other hand, work without process management is for fruitcakes! You can fail fast, or just fail! OK, I exaggerate a little.

Peter's original question was based on the appearance of a high-profile rhetorical attack on the idea of process. As mentioned above the article did sound like a textbook scrum or agile manifesto. (I did like the part of "testing not being free" and that it was important to make sure any testing "is for a purpose". I have a background in B2B market research, and the same things can be said about market research questions. Researchers love to answer questions, but there better be a business purpose for the question.)

The article on the limitations of process is basically a lot of common sense. But less satisfactorily, the article is also mostly "theory-free". And thus we are in a world of discourse where common sense -- and common prejudice -- rules. Because without theory or science, one is by definition in a world of common sense.

Common sense is hopefully something we can all claim to have. But common sense can only get you so far. The solution to bad process is not to throw out process, but to do process better. You don't get rid of accounting because someone cooked your books, you figure out how to do your books correctly with trustworthy accountants.

For fun, let's compare this common sense-limited world of management discourse to the world of medical discourse. If medical discourse was at the same level as this article, we'd still be attributing disease to "bodily humors" (pace Steve Martin).

Business itself is fundamentally about pushing beyond common sense. For this reason, business discourse must likewise be informed by more than common sense. The revolutionary message that disturbs the common sense status quo can come from many places. Since the Enlightenment though, much of the time this "outside the system" message is based on science. In the case at hand, the science is business process management. Science and rationality apply not only to building bridges and computer chips, but even to the domain of management and business process.
John, business process management is not a science. There is no theory and no means to test its propositions. After 20 years of BPM there are no vendor-independent, scientific studies that prove in any way that it has a positive benefit on a business. If you know of such studies let me know, because I have been searching for them for the last ten years. All BPM is is a broad assumption that the benefits of manufacturing can be applied to human interaction that is the key in purposeful collaboration (aka as running a business).

And if there truly is common sense then why can't we rely on it in the people who perform the processes? The problem is in reality not about designing and enforcing processes which is a non-common-sense solution to poor management, but a lack of transparency. The business needs an environment in which authority, goals and means are well defined and in which all work performed (both structured and collaborative) can be supported by technology beyond email and MS-Office.

Yes, there is Agile and Scrum as an alternative view that much more meets the needs of human interaction also in process management. But it needs the common sense understanding that command and control structures kill innovation and a human focus.
  1. Max J. Pucher
  2. 3 years ago
(This note is a reply to Max's reply; happy to move it as such if that's possible.)

Max, your comments are very interesting, and there are several possible points of engagement. But I'll leave the question of the intersection of science, business and common-sense discourses for now.

You comment that "lack of transparency" is a key to the problem of process management in business. The transparency issue is important, at several levels. Lack of transparency can be an artefact of power relations (information hiding augments power), an artefact of time (it takes too long to document and communicate everything, which is a kind of economics of transparency), an artefact of human skill (group members may not be that good at communicating) and lastly an artefact of technology (the technology of communications, despite the interesting developments in "social", isn't that good yet). In the circumstances, it's amazing that anything is ever agreed and successfully achieved.

So let's see where we are on the "technology of transparency" question.

I also like to scan the horizon for any useful technologies or science that might be helpful (or saleable). Fifteen years ago, at the suggestion of the head of the department of Computational Linguistics at U. of Toronto I looked into the developing science of ontology, which I was surprised to learn had migrated from philosophy departments. Perhaps an ontological foundation would provide the solid foundation for better engineered software, I thought? Since then my sense is that aside from a few applications in specialized fields, and misapplications as folksonomies, the science of ontological logic is not really there yet, especially for personal software. (And thus we are doomed to having to maintain contact lists in who knows how many places . . . )

However, there is one area of promise is in the developing "science of narrative". Elsevier's Anita De Waard has some interesting presentations on how very structured narratives (i.e. scientific papers) can be systematically analyzed. Here are two references:



The work on narrative is relevant to business process insofar as business process can also be seen as story. And if machines can be used to help us tell more stories, more effectively, then the domain of business-process-software-enabled-by-narrative-science will become more compellingly useful.
  1. John Morris
  2. 3 years ago
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Bogdan Nafornita Accepted Answer
I love these articles of brilliant whizz kids doing a life's meaningful work (Facebook? Instagram?) in 6 years then laying back to give leadership and business advice.

Not to belittle his impressive achievements, none of what he says sounds new. Yes, it's scrum and agile without using the vocabulary.

I don't even know exactly how to comment the article, lots of common sense stuff and almost nothing to do with the nonsensical title.
Managing Founder, profluo.com
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