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Does the perfect process exist? Is it worthwhile for a company to pursue the perfect process?
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Oxymoron - just like Transformation Project
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And yet a couple of well-known publicists in the BPM industry we all know keep pumping out books with that word in the title.
Of course, and the reason is people buy the books.

I figure books will soon have no titles, just pictures.

The US Education Dept apparently is cutting their budget by 2/3. I suppose one scenario is they will get rid of Reading and Writing.

It this happens, future generations will only relate to pictures, with a select few able to deal with mathematical symbols.
@Derek... Oxymorons agitate me. "Perfect Process" qualifies.

So does "continuous process improvement" (as in, "never stop") - everyone knows that change is disruptive, is not always cost-justifiable (i.e. diminishing returns), that change can create risk and at times, instability (as a result of excessive tweaking).
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 1
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Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. Better to settle for "good enough" - because the process is going to change anyway.
Founder at John Reynolds' Venture LLC - Creator of ¿?Trules™ for drama free decisions
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  1. more than a month ago
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Similar to the definition of the best service - that you don't notice. The perfect process is that you don't notice.

Thanks,
AS
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 3
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Yes the Adaptive ones which support inevitable change! Processes are assets as long as they are flexible otherwise could become liabilities.....
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 4
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No! Who defines perfect? I have found that once you believe you have the perfect process, the event of adding people will show you that you didn't have a perfect process.
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 5
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No.

You can have a process that is subjectively 'perfect' for, say, one user, only, but not for others.

We should talk about "best practices", with the proviso that any process you are using (process in your head, narrative on paper, process map on paper, on-line process, in-line process) is your "current best practice" until it is replaced by a "better" process.

My objection to 'perfect process' is that it implies there is nothing you can change to improve it.

Rarely the case, BUT, this ignores the ROI - is it worth it to try to improve a process? will the improved (optimized?) process be more difficult to understand (too much automation), will it be less stable, will it require more attention?
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The temptation to "tweak" a process is greatest for people with OCD, closely followed by functional units whose mandate it is to tweak processes.

My friend, Reg Wilcox, had a theory

Problem: (any problem). Solution: Do nothing.

Range of outcomes
1. problem will resolve on its own.
2. problem will stay the same, giving you time to focus on more important problems/initiatives.
3. problem will get worse and will be attended to by someone else.

"solution #3, to me, does not sound like a career-advancing solution"
  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 6
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Ever heard a customer ask "Dear supplier, are your processes perfect?"

Of course not. Customers don't care. They just want their problems solved. If your processes do that, it's fine. Or.... is it perfect?
Sharing my adventures in Process World via Procesje.nl
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 7
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"Perfect" generally means flawless. With that definition in mind I doubt we could ever produce a completely flawless process. As a practical matter, the quality or goodness of a process evolves over time, usually as the result of some kind of continuing or periodic improvement effort. Therein lies reality; namely, that efforts to improve a process consume resources and therefore must compete with other efforts. I've improved the performance of a process in a significant way and that was "good enough" because the client now other, higher priorities. In the end, I don't think it's possible and I don't think it's worth pursuing.
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No organization needs to be "best" at everything.

In order to build, sustain and improve competitive advantage, all you need is a perceived state of superiority in a few key areas across some reasonable base. The base decides what the key areas are, not the corporation.

So "good enough", within that context, is indeed "good enough", with extra efforts yielding rapidly diminishing returns.

Important not to disappoint so if you overreach and then fail, what CEOs need to keep in mind is that 1 dissatisfied customer on social net can offset best efforts to keep 1,000 satisfied customers.

Actually, "satisfied" no longer works- corporations today need "delighted" customers.
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  3. # 8
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There is no such thing. On a deeper level, however, the ongoing pursuit of a balanced optimum, resulting from striving for perfection becomes apparent. Opposing variables have to be constantly balanced out on multiple levels. Perfection maybe searched for, as a process result, in terms of profit maximization, increasing quality, lessening the ecological footprint, response times and many other things. The enhancement of given process features will at some point down perfection lane come the at the cost of opposing others. An increasing level of perfection in any direction will naturally also add up the level of process rigidity.
In the "real world" I have yet to find a BPM user being troubled with that dilema :) For the most part, I think, the bulk of processes are either at the other end the spectrum or somewhere in the middle.
NSI Soluciones - ABPMP PTY
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 9
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There is an old story from 90s - about the Chairman of ICI (as was), Sir John Harvey Jones. A great business mind, but I digress. ICI made paints and speciality products, including food ingredients, speciality polymers, electronic materials, fragrances and flavourings. It was acquired by AkzoNobel in 2008.

It turns out that ICI had hired an Androgynous Consulting firm to "re-engineer" their North American Sales Process. The story goes that the Partner from the consulting firm was to do a mid-project review with the Board of ICI back in the UK. The As-Is and To-Be process models were, of course, enormous. Printed out onto a large roll of paper, They had to accompany the partner in Business Class of the jet coming to the UK ... they were so important they had their own seat (probably alongside a junior in the back).

Anyways, when put up on the conference room wall they stretched something like 60 feet for the As-Is version, and a good bit less than that for the To-Be version. The numbers are not so important. The Partner went through his spiel about the challenges and benefits of the proposed solution. Sir John listened attentively and then pointed to the To-Be version and asked ... "Can you tell me, is it a _good_ process? And if so, why." ... Put yourself in the shoes of the partner as he tries to answer Sir John.

Point is that the model shared may have been accurate, but it was also wholly inappropriate for the audience.

Processes are merely characterisations of how things get done around here. Yes, we want to automate what we can and the mundane aspects. We want predictability. We need to be able to scale the 80% of common things, but we also need to flex the 20% (80/20, 90/10, 99/1 ... just depends on the nature and scale of the business).
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 10
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Well, of course you're all completely wrong. :o :p :)

OK well no, you're right. But I'll add that there is such thing as a perfect process for a moment in time, for a particular use case, from a particular point of view. If that moment is now, and that POV is that of your customer, that may be as close to perfect as you actually ever need to be.
http://www.bplogix.com/images/icon-x-medium.png
-Scott
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 11
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The perfect process is one that every one follows consistently. Therefore the majority of the effort should be on adoption - and that starts wth the way the processes are discovered (live workshops) and presented (UPN standard) and made available (online & personalized)

UPN standard (example below)
[img]https://app.box.com/s/p4dnnz3fr22rn78nzql3sh076lr1pdqf[/img]
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  3. # 12
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Some great answers! What more can be added, without mentioning "the best being the enemy of the good" or even alluding to "idolatry"?:D

How about cost/benefit? The idea has been alluded to in answers above, but it's worth mentioning that investing in a process is a management decision. What's the return on greater process richness? How much should we leave to the tacit -- to the experience, skill and judgement of our team members? What is the opportunity cost of perfection, likely given decreasing returns to more detail? And what about a distinction between perfection-at-one-point-in-time versus perfection-as-organic-process? Consider successful organizations as constantly evolving or adapting. Perfection is then defined as "surviving another day". And lastly, what does perfection mean when we think of a process as a technology artefact supporting automation? Tools can be beautiful, but aesthetics is not the (usual) criteria by which we measure tools. Is the tool first-of-all functional? We are now back to the management cost/benefit question.

Designers and aesthetes will claim that functional == beautiful. Managers won't ask the question (at least in the USA; there are cultures, for example in Japan, where the question of aesthetics is not off the table). Practitioners though will appreciate good processes that make flow possible.
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  1. more than a month ago
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  3. # 13
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Perfect process is an important abstraction, which predefines and motivates all development of BPM.

Perfect process does not exist literally in most cases. Rather, it serves as an asymptotic, which represents a reference point for any process improvement. In this sense, perfect process is a cornerstone and an ultimate goal of process mapping, analysis and governance initiatives. Perfect process is notorious "zero" point, which delimits all system of coordinates and dimensions in BPM continuum.

Perfect process serves as a pole for a compass of every BPM practitioner. It is questionable, if a life exists on a pole, if it is a comfortable or proper place for a living. Nevertheless, it doesn’t diminish a distinctive role of poles in day to day navigation.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/ea/Asymptote02_vectorial.svg/720px-Asymptote02_vectorial.svg.png
References
  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asymptote
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Most customers rank products/services using algorithms which they, themselves, are incapable of describing. With rare exceptions, these include some level of subjectivity. Therefore,"perfect" to one wil not be "perfect" to others.

The other thing is that in order to build a "perfect" process you would presumably need the knowledge to do so. Donald Rumsfeld defined the full range of knowledge states (known knowns, known unknowns, unknown knowns and unknown unknowns).

Seems to me that last two make it impossible to design, let alone build/rollout/maintain a "perfect" process.

Another observation is that an increasing number of manufacturers' notion of "perfect" is failure of a device the day after the warranty expires. Far from perfect from a customer's perspective.

Customers get to the same level of frustration with services, where the provider of a service expressly or involuntarily makes it necessary for the customer to have an ongoing relationship with their provider.

See my blog post "Why we visit lawyers?"

http://wp.me/pzzpB-nQ
@Karl, in one or another way management embarks BPM to have some improvements. Perfection can be considered as an ideal or abstraction; if not reachable, then at least implied. I cant imagine a client who is not having idea of improvement as an internal motivation.

In business terms, perfection has clear measurement in terms of ROI over a base period on average investment cycle per specific industry.
@Boris.. No disagreement. . . I thnk most companies strive for "good enough" across the board then in areas where they feel they have an edge, they go for "best" . Most lack the resources to try to be best in every aspect of their businesses.

I don't see anything wrong with keeping in mind an ideal. At the very least, it helps them to assess from time to time whether they are moving in the right direction.

@Karl, I totally agree that an ideal can be destructive. After all, it is quite a deep thought, even apart from business. But it is an area of psychology and philosophy, rather than of BPM. If one heads an ideal blindly, without consideration of own circumstances, it will most likely result in a broken neck (in personal exercise) or more casualties (in case of a leader). Here, however, not an ideal should be blamed but, rather, its followers.

But even more likely, any action without clearly defined goal will be destructive. In this sense, perfect process is always a goal, if not literally reachable, then, at least, well understood and observable by all involved parties. Therefore, it is always crucial to stop timely heading for a perfection. But, at the same time, it is crucial to always have a perfection in view, even if not reachable.
  1. John Morris
  2. 1 year ago
  3. #4012
The progression around the asymptote assumes a steady-state external environment. It's easy enough (and fun too) to add a simple linear term to each side of the equations listed above -- and thus move the whole spiral. This would be analogous to business environmental change ("they moved the goalposts!) -- the point is that we are now we are working towards a new ideal.
(Anyone who wants to explore the graph can reference any of the free graphing calculators online.www.desmos.com is an example created for middle school or high school students. On desmos.com/calculator, the secret is to define a function (a,b), and then set each term to Boris' formula above. Compared to plotting on graph paper it's quite marvellous.)
@John, marvelous observation! I took this simplistic 2D curve just for a visual perception.

Of course, real business systems bear far higher dimensions and incomparably more variability. However, even this illustration should clearly highlight generic asymptotics existing in real business models and revealed through simulations and modeling of business scenarios. Importantly, one must be careful with setting of business goals in a sense that they must be attractors in terms of convergence, i.e. representing stable universal points for convergence. Otherwise, efforts on achieving factious mirages will just dissipate enormous business resources in random fluctuations. In this sense, selection of an perfect process is a cornerstone of success on a level of company's mission.
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