All in the process

25 05 2011

Often I talk about adaptive processes, the need to be flexible within our implementation of processes, but I haven’t spoken much about the power of processes. By this I mean the potential processes can have on impacting an organisation, or even how we live our lives as consumers. That’s pretty powerful stuff.

When I speak of processes, please don’t think of a defined process map, or some case with defined tasks. These are implementations of a process, not the process. When I speak of processes I always mean a very high level view of how something is done. This post is all about this type of process thinking…

 

Process definition

We get used to following a certain pattern on how to do things, the way something is done, this even applies to how we discover or design processes. How many of you use a BPM designer tool to design processes, or to communicate them? Working in this way means we can often shut the door on process innovation and innovative thinking in general.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t use such tools, but we shouldn’t be using them right from the start, rather sit down with a blank bit of a paper and a pencil…By using designer tools, or working with processes we know well, it means that in many cases we actually refine a process, rather than redefine or create new. The problem here is not one of flexibility, or capabilities to adapt, rather the way the business, individuals and teams believe the best way of doing things is. I need an example…

Take “check out” at a supermarket, how long has it taken someone to look at the checkout process and say “actually, why don’t we allow the customer to check themselves out, why don’t we let them operate the till?”. Let’s face it the technology has been there since the POS was invented to do this, but no one has really changed the actual check out process until recently…What has been happening is that we all presume the current process in general is the best way of doing it. It’s only that someone stepped back and re-evaluated the process in general that we end up with self-checkout.

 

All in the process

When we look at processes, no matter how flexible they need to be, there still is a definable process, once you step back and look at the whole problem. The trick is not to define in minute detail a process, nor to take a process and simply refine it, but to actually step back, take some time and re-evaluate the complete process from end to end. The best way to do this is to throw away what you know about the process, throw away any preconceptions of how the process will work, and start with a blank sheet of paper. Ask yourself what is the business problem? What is the start point? What is the end goal? Once you have done this, throw together some very loose and high level processes to achieve the business goal. I like to make them as different as possible as this often illustrates to me the massive variations that are possible, it also forces me to think outside of the box so to speak and I find, spark some innovative thinking. If you do this well, you will have a number of very different processes on your bits of paper, only then should we try to put some flesh on our process bones.

When fleshing out processes I then move to designer tools, but again I don’t ever want to enforce too much, nor put in any more detail than I need to. Once you have done this, then you can really look and evaluate your very different processes for the same business problem. It maybe (like our supermarket checkout) that more than one of these processes will be used to meet the business need, or that you opt for one in particular. The point is though, that you evaluate the processes in general, at a high level.

Innovative thinking and processes can make a massive difference to a business goal, it can even flesh out new ways of doing business, new ways for customers to purchase from you, open up new doors of revenue / savings and spark new life in general into an organisation. That’s the power of processes when you look at them at a very high level.

Implementation

When you come to implementation, that’s when you look to tools that aren’t rigid, solutions that can adapt and allow process refinement by the end user. After all, the end user will be the ones that make the process work, and work well. End users need to be empowered by your software solution to enable them to carry out your business process. If your end users are restricted by the software, if they are restricted in their thinking, then your innovation is lost, your processes ability to meet that business goal diminished and the benefits start falling away. End users are the key to success with any business process…

This is when I start talking about Adaptive Process Guidance, adaptive capabilities and flexible implementations….(see other blogs J)

Advertisements