Following the Crowd
Executive: We need to implement business process management. How do we go about doing it?
Colleague: Well, we don't have a center for process improvement, and the group that usually handles enterprise projects does not have expertise in process management specifically.
Executive: I hear that lots of folks are using the Normative Enterprise… Framework… um…
Colleague: The Normative Enterprise Workflow Framework and Associated Definitions?
Executive: Yes! The NEWFAD. Can we implement that? Should we implement it?
Colleague: I'd have to look into it. It might have what we need, but we need to decide exactly what we need to improve.
Executive: Well, I eventually want the whole organization aligned and working on the same page. NEWFAD seems to accomplish that. Do you see a particular area where we should start? Or should we try to do as broad an implementation as possible?
Colleague: That's a hard thing to decide. We should talk to managers in several areas of the business to determine where we are having the most trouble conforming to standards or working with the rest of the organization.
Executive: Our own people could be too close to the issue to make the best decision here. I've been in several improvement-related conversations recently, and most people around here have rather biased opinions on which parts of the organization are neediest. Maybe we should hire a consultant to help us look at this objectively.
Colleague: Is that necessary? The last consultant we hired suggested a few tools, but we haven't ever implemented them.
Executive: We did roll out that one collaboration application, but it stalled out. No one is using it anymore. Maybe we need something new.
Colleague: Maybe there's something in what the consultant gave us back then that could help us now.
Executive: Perhaps, but if we haven't used it yet, we may never do it. Are those old materials completely outdated? Maybe we could hire someone full-time with process management expertise. Or someone with experience in NEWFAD?
Colleague: But do we really know what we're looking for?
STOP IT! Too many organizations have tools, want tools, or were given tools that they don't know how to use. Some have even implemented large-scale software applications that they have little training in or plans for. Doing something just because everyone else is doing it is not a good move. Information is power. Learn a little more about the different improvement methodologies available to you before shelling out the big bucks.
In process management, it can seem like a new business/process modeling software application hits the scene every day. But in reality, the most newfangled tools are usually based on methodologies and frameworks that have been around for a decade or more. In the scenario above, the organization may be able to train its current improvement experts in the tools that were suggested by a previous consultant. The organization may need to better structure its improvement personnel into a formal department or do spot trainings in process improvement. Improving the organization may not require as many dollars as executives might think. But it probably takes more time. That's just the way process management implementations tend to go.
In any case, if executives could determine a small area in the business to pilot their new process management approach, they could use those limited results to figure out how to tweak and adjust what they are planning for the whole organization.
Countless organizations are out there, trying to align and standardize work, longing to benchmark and improve, but they don't know how to go about it. APQC's most popular report is currently Using Process Frameworks and Reference Models to Get Real Work Done. Clearly, organizations are seeking more information, and the information is out there.
The Using Process Frameworks report is designed to show people what to do with all those weird tools they've gotten from consultants or heard about in the media or from colleagues. It's worth a read just for the in-depth case studies explaining how top-performing organizations have gone about the business of implementing frameworks and models.
If the conversation above looks familiar, take a step back and do a little reading and a little asking around. It's okay if you have tools and models sitting around that have never been put into action. Now is the time to dust off the capabilities you already have. You can align and get better consistency, efficiency, and communication. Ditch the bandwagon and figure out what will work best for you—whatever it takes.