Tonight I started reading Business Process Change: A Manager's Guide to Improving, Redesigning and Automating Processes, by Paul Harmon. Doesn't sould like a cliff-hanger, does it? It's kept me up way past bedtime.
I'm about 70 pages in, and so far it's great. Paul ties together TQM, Michael Porter, Business Process Re-engineering, Workflow, ERP, CASE, Six sigma, Business Process Redesign, and the net/eBusiness -- all steps leading to today's Business Process orientation. Systems thinking, flows, silos, value chains, alignment, process architecture, and the work of Geary Rummler: it's all here.
These concepts appeared after I'd graduated from B-School. I'm familiar with them all, but from journal articles or the Web or some process of osmosis from the New York Times. I had missed the connections. I'd also failed to appreciate:
The Geary Rummler I remember from the 70s was a behavioralist. I never bought into the stimulus-response oversimplification of the Skinnerians, so I dismissed Rummler as just another bag of ISPI claptrap. Duh!
The chart below, from Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization Chart, which Rummer wrote with Alan Brache in 1990, pried my eyes open. How had I missed their book? This little 3x3 table is profound.A performance framework (Modified after a figure in Rummler and Brache, Improving Performance)
Goals & measures
Design & implementation
Organizational goals and measures of organizational success
Organizational design and implementation
Process goals and measures of process success
Process design and implementation
Activity or performance level
Activity goals and measures of activity success
Activity design and implementation
Now we come to the business process architecture committee or planning committee, the group that should know what business processes support what goals. In theory, the strategy group feeds the planning group which in turn proposes changes in business process and IT infrastructure.
I have to wonder if this is real or pipe dream. Most of the organizations I've worked in were driven by personality, not logic. Thinking back to the banks, software companies, and high-tech hot-shots I've dealt with, I really don't know if they were doing something this logical when I wasn't looking or if this Business Process stuff is ahead of their curve. (Big company denizens, please comment.)
Turning to organizations, Paul notes that "An organization chart doesn't show the customers. Equally important, it doesn't show the products and services the company provides to customers, or where the resources needed to create the products and services come from in the first place." This is the silo problem. If you respect the lines on the org chart, you may optimize your unit at the expense of the whole. You win the battle but lose the war. If you've read me for a while, you've heard this before. Locals optimize their fiefdoms at the expense of the federation.
The antidote is "systems thinking," i.e. The Fifth Discipline, taking a broader perspective. Paul says "The alternative is to try to figure out how to assign strategic goals to departments without a clear idea of how the departments must work together to achieve the desired outcomes."
Next we come to notation. A process diagram is a workflow diagram with "swimlanes". Most often, suppliers on the left side, customers on the right, and a presumption that the chronogical flow is left to right. Processes have rounded corners, events and objects have square. Useful models incorporate drill-down, and this keeps the heavy forest from obliterating the trees.
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