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4 posts from March 2011

March 10, 2011

The Trouble With Outside-in

In the Harvard Business Review this week Brad Power wrote a very poignant article entitled "Uniting the Religions of Process Improvement" (the title speaks for itself).

As many of you will know I am a big fan of the CEM Method - a structured methodology used to take an outside-in (customer centric) approach to process improvement. It's not the only methodology that I use, however; I use parts of Lean and Six Sigma where I feel they are appropriate and practical. In short I am passionate about CEM Method, but I'm not locked in to it as a method.

Over the past year I have witnessed horrendous, childish bunfights between the CEM Method brigade and the BP Trends contributors - this discussion is a classic example. Yes, I started the fight, I will take credit (or debit) for that, but my point of the discussion was to understand why BP Trends had a closed door policy on outside-in thinking and methods. The door is still closed it appears, and after the review of Harvard Professor Ranjay Gulati's book on Outside-in that door doesn't look like being opened any time soon. I find it ironic that as catalysts for change, some process people find it so difficult to adapt to new ways of thinking and of new methods.

But there IS a problem with outside-in and the CEM Method. It's a closed shop. Rather, it's a shop you can come into, but you'll have to pay. You will find no textbooks explaining the CEM Method. You will find plenty of books talking about outside-in and customer centricity - but as for the method, sorry you can enter the club sir, but you must be a member.

Therein lies the problem. Whilst the BP Group appear to be growing in numbers at a large rate, and consequently the number of "Certified Process Professionals" is also increasing, CEM Method remains a largely unknown commodity. In short, its credibility as a tool in the marketplace is lacking - not because of a lack of results, but simply because it is not well known. As a result of this closed shop there is also a lack of credible analysis of achievements (here I am talking Gartner or Forrester).

So where does this leave the "Certified Process Professionals" and "Certified Process Masters?" In short, frustrated. Frustrated that when we speak to clients they have never heard of the terms or the methods. Frustrated that they can't pick up a book and learn about it. Frustrated that there is no alternative to learning it other than paying thousands of dollars for a course.

Now is the time for the CEM Method to become truely outside-in - and become an open method, available to all.



March 09, 2011

Can Process Save the Planet?

I'm interested in sustainability, but I'm even more interested in the linkage between sustainability and process. I would imagine that sustainability is to most process people a matter of common sense, and what many of us have been practising for years. It's all about production without the pain.

So here we are in the 21st Century and Mr Gore has informed us about what we've done wrong - namely belching too much carbon into the atmosphere. So we need to change the process (rapidly) to stop the effects. To do this there are both short and long term improvements that can be made - let's look at those:

Short-term: Reduce the amount of power we use. 

Ok, so this is a simple, quick fix, right? The less power we use, the less carbon we produce. All it relies upon is to change people's habits to reduce power consumption and wastage. For example, I should now turn off all my devices that have standby modes off at the wall socket when not in use, turn my fridge up to 4c and recycle as many products as possible.

But I'm a lazy human being. I don't really want to spend 10 minutes every day going around switching sockets on and off. I like the soft drinks in my fridge to be icey cold and I question whether my recycling has any effect if I have to rinse out all the bottles and cans with hot water (which uses power). In short, habits are hard to change and people will always gravitate to what is simplest and easiest for them. But fundamentally all of these improvements are fixing the effect, not the cause.

Long-term: Fix the cause. 

If we knew that all of the power we used was clean and did not damage the planet, we wouldn't need to worry about the difficult process of changing people's behaviour - one of the hardest things to do. If we used clean sources of power such as wind and water none of this would be necessary.

The Problem

But the problem remains the upfront cost of building wind and water turbines, of giant fields of solar panels and the like.  Much like bringing BPM into an organisation, we know it's the right thing to do, but when it comes to signing the cheque the powers that be stick their heads in the sand and pretend that everything is all right. Instead they invest in piecemeal solutions that continue to provide some benefit, but which fall well short of the true gains that could be made by fixing the cause and not the effect.

Let's hope that our politicians and corporations can make the right decisions - or the price of fixing the effect and not the cause may be our children's future.

March 04, 2011

The Process Knowledge Initiative - 5 Months Later...

The Process Knowledge Initiative, or as it's otherwise called on their website "The Process Knowledge Body of Knowledge" AKA "The Canadian Process Knowledge Initiative", continues to gather momentum...

5 months on from the initial "call for action" I thought it would be timely to look at what action the initiative has achieved. So far, according the the news section they have:

  • Appointed Technical & Methodology Advisory Board Members
  • Appointed Technical Integration Team Members


Well, that's it according the the PKI website. Oh and they have added an FAQ page to the website, (with the "top 12 questions"!) which will help greatly to understand what the five (yes five) teams will actually do to create the Process Knowledge Body of Knowledge.

A comment that appears to have cropped up after I raised some concerns about the usage of the term "Technical" states:

** Please note that “Technical” refers to the creation of PKBoK content, rather than the stewardship of the PKI organization.  PKBoK content spans business and technology concerns. **

Good, glad we got that clarified. Although I still question the appropriateness of the word. 

Strangely enough there is no mention on the PKI website about the PKI Wiki that Sandy Kemsley mentioned on her blog. The blog is up and anyone is able to create an account and leave comments, although you won't be able to add any content (that is for the sacred few). Still, I'd encourage you to get on there and start commenting. I'm sure it will start to look like the BP Trends discussions in no-time.

So, 5 months on the PKI has some team members and a Wiki. With the first release of "Candidate Process Knowledge Areas" due for release in January it looks like the PKI is (sadly) falling behind already.

Let's hope that with a little less bureacracy and a more open approach they can pull it back on track.



March 01, 2011

Why BPM and Governments Don't Work

I've worked in Australian government departments a couple of times in my career. Each time I have been shocked.

Shocked by the wastage, shocked by the red tape, shocked by the inability to deliver.

BPM in government is like putting lipstick on a pig. This is because the concept of government as a support service for the paying customers (yes, the members of the public) is fundamentally flawed.

Goverment receives large bundles of money to spend in the taxpayers best interests. What happens? They spend it - but not in the taxpayers best interests. OK, so some of it is spent appropriately, but the crippling bureaucracy of government means that huge amounts of money are poured down the drain on a daily basis. The reason for this is not complex, it is down to a few simple factors:

- Governance. Governance is important, but government take governance to a crippling level where no-one is able to get anything done. Staff spend an infinately longer time trying to get things done than in the private sector. Then they give up. After that they'll get in a team of highly paid consultants to do the job, who of course won't deliver anything because they know there will be no repercussions. After that another team of consultants will come in to check the consultants work, and after that...

- Accountability. Unless you're in the public spotlight the chances of anyone giving you the sack are infinitely small. So why even bother trying to deliver? Why bust your hump when you can sit snoozing at your desk - for the next 30 years.

- Restrictions. Chances are in government if you want to buy anything you will only be allowed to buy from an "approved" supplier. And the suppliers know that. Hence you'll be paying 10x more than anyone in the private sector. But then again, your boss won't care (see Accountability).

- Inflexibility. Government's rigid ways of doing things and total resistance to change means that you can bring BPM in as long as you aren't intending to change anything. Nothing. You can sit around and talk about it for 12 months - they'll be happy with that. Just don't change anything. In particular don't deliver anything that might be considered adding value.

So whilst fat, lazy, government "public servants" sit around pondering how they are going to manage to spend this years budget and you are working hard to earn a living, just think about that big slice of tax you are paying sliding into oblivion.

I never really understood Margaret Thatcher until now, and I've never been a fan of politics, but if I had my way today I'd privatise as much of government as I possibly could - like she did in the 1980's in the UK. I'd get rid of the unions that perpetuate this slovenly public sector culture and I'd give the responsibility over to private sector companies under a strict series of mandates and KPI's.

In short, I'd run government like a business, not as an employment charity for the inept and wasteful.

Until that day comes (and in NSW in particular it looks like it's coming soon), BPM in government is largely a huge waste of time, money and effort.



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"The Process Improvement Group specialise in reducing costs and improving the customer experience for financial services firms. We do this by streamlining the way they do their work. It's not uncommon for us to identify multi-million dollar savings in days." - Craig Reid, CEO