A Packet Of Seeds And A Shovel Is Not Gardening

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Organisations might have many of the components parts of good process-based management, but still struggle to make it work—a packet of seeds and a shovel is not gardening. This paper discusses an approach that removes the problems with traditional process-based management.

Roger Tregear, Consulting Director, Leonardo Consulting, [email protected]

Roger is a regular speaker at the annual IRM UK Business Process Management conference in London. He is the author of Reimagining Management.

This article was previously published here.

For most organisations, BPM hasn’t worked. This can be corrected.

By “BPM” I mean the management philosophy better called process-based management; the acceptance that value can only be created across the organisation via cross-functional business processes, and that those processes should, therefore, be actively managed via additional structures separate to the organisation chart.

The theory is sound, and the business case is compelling, and yet few organisations create and sustain genuine process-based management—even those who work hard to do so.

What’s the problem? What are we missing?

What’s missing is an embedded systemic approach that demonstrably delivers useful outcomes, i.e. it fixes problems and delivers improved performance.

If process-based management doesn’t deliver real benefits to the organisation and its customers (and other stakeholders), why should anyone care?

Business folks need to see real improvements, not just a bunch of diagrams and a series of increasingly annoying workshops.

The process approach must make life simpler, not more complex. They’re called customers, colleagues, and stakeholders, not masochists.

Systems only work well when all the parts are working, and all are working well together. Take any part out of a clock movement and the good times will be over!

Process-based management initiatives may have process architectures, performance measures, process owners, process improvement methodologies, centres of excellence, and all of those are of limited use if they are not all working together as a single management system.

A working process-based management system has an additional ‘horizontal’ management overlay to continually test the performance of clearly identified processes, with a view to facilitating genuine continuous improvement, initiated, and managed in the business, and supported by a central service.

A packet of seeds and a shovel is not gardening; we can have many, perhaps all, of the parts and they won’t be of much use unless we can make them into a system.

Here are some good gardening principles; ideas and imperatives for creating an embedded system of successful and sustained process-based management.

The primacy of process. This is key. We need to lock in the idea that value is created, accumulated, and delivered across the organisation and not up and down the organisation chart.

Get the circles turning. I discussed the circles in an earlier paper. The Tregear Circles are a meta-model for management, an elegant way to create and sustain genuine continuous process management and continuous process improvement.

The ocean cannot be boiled. Don’t try to do too much at once. Pick just a few processes and get the circles turning for them. Prove the system works, tailor it to fit, demonstrate success.

Create the governance triumvirate. Process governance needs three interrelated elements: authority, ownership, and support. A process council or equivalent is needed to be the ultimate source of authority for all process issues across the organisation. Process owners (or whatever name is used for the role) are required to focus on process specific performance. Support, via the Office of BPM or a centre of excellence, is required for all involved.

Process owners are NOT responsible. Setting up a process owner to be responsible for the performance of the process will create a conflict with functional managers. It also requires the process owner to be responsible for something over which they likely have, at best, only partial control. This may not end well. Better to say that the process owner is accountable for responding when the process performance is out of range, trending in that direction, targets need to be reviewed, or a new idea needs to be tested. Effective process ownership is about influence, not authority.

Get quickly to good enough; keep going. “Good enough” is a high standard. Get there as quickly as possible, and then keep going. For example, developing a process architecture takes forever, but a good working model for the upper levels can be developed and made useful in just a few weeks.

Deliver, deliver, deliver. Organisations have a finite attention span; they need to see results that improve organisation performance. My rule-of-thumb is to assume we have three months to show, if not deliver, real business benefits.

Top down (& bottom up, & middle out). You can start process management work from the bottom-up or the middle-out, but it must be finished from the top down. Ultimately, process-based management is about the execution of organisational strategy and that demands the close involvement of the C-suite.

Continuous improvement + management. Many organisations do some form of process improvement, perhaps on an ad hoc basis, or in a more systematic, continuous way. Few do continuous process management, i.e. continuously assess process performance to be sure that process improvement resources are applied for optimum results.

All managed; some prioritized. It is appropriate and prudent to identify some process as more important than others. These processes, often called the critical or high-impact processes, warrant special attention. However, all processes need to be managed (from the top down). To manage only some processes, means that the problems will likely occur in those processes not being actively managed. Get the circles turning for all processes across the upper levels of the process architecture.

Good gardening requires much more than having all the right components. Those components must form a managed system that facilitates establishment of the garden and its ongoing health and development. To grow process-based management also requires such a systemic approach.

Roger Tregear delivers BPM education and consulting assignments, bringing to them 30 years of management consulting experience. He spends his working life talking, thinking, and writing about the analysis, improvement, innovation, and management of business processes. His work has taken him to Australia, New Zealand, Bahrain, Belgium, Nigeria, South Africa, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, and the USA. Roger is a regular columnist for BPTrends. He is author of Practical Process (2013), co-author of Establishing the Office of Business Process Management (2011), and contributed the chapter Business Process Standardization in The International Handbook on BPM (2010, 2015). With Paul Harmon, Roger edited Questioning BPM? (2016). Roger’s iconic book, Reimagining Management, was also published in 2016. Process Precepts (2017), Roger’s latest book, involves a cosmopolitan, global team in discussions about the process of management.

Copyright Roger Tregear, Consulting Director, Leonardo Consulting.

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