<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1907245749562386&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Roger Tregear

Find me on:

Recent Posts

Are You Delivering Process Artifacts Rather Than Customer Value?

Roger Tregear Roger Tregear on April 5, 2017

17_artifacts_not_value.pngIt proves to be easy for those closely involved in the theory and practice of process-based management to confuse the delivery of nicely crafted artifacts with delivering real value. We can too easily get wrapped up in the development of the (very necessary) diagrams, models, spreadsheets, presentations, posters, methodologies, information databases, role descriptions, modeling conventions, project plans, and the many other realizations of business process performance and concepts, and lose sight of the real purpose.

What is that ‘real purpose’? This might seem like a trivial question, but the answer is important, and too many process practitioners, and the teams in which they work, do not have a clear answer—or if they do, it gets lost in the daily pressures of work.

The only ‘real purpose’ that makes sense is to contribute in meaningful ways to the improvement of organizational performance. If we are not doing that, then we are waste by our own definitions.

The need to meet commitments to deliver various artifacts can easily overwhelm the what should be the clear overall objective, our focus narrows to getting the next document completed, we focus on getting business units to use the methodology properly, or to complete the required report, or turn up to the process review workshop, or to comply with modeling conventions—in short, we lose the cross-functional view that we evangelize to others. Oops! That’s more than a little embarrassing.

This contribution to sustained performance improvement must be proven, not just asserted. As process practitioners, we are part of the cross-functional team that executes the process 'improve performance', and that process must also be measured, managed, and improved in the same way we advocate for all other processes. This process must be the best managed and highest performing process in any organization.

We can’t say we are doing well and increasing our process management maturity, because we have created a thousand artifacts (diagrams, models, charts etc.) We can only claim success if we can demonstrate a return-on-process that is acknowledged by the organization.

Perhaps the real test is that, come budget time, the process group is offered more money because it is seen to be a good investment.

 This is not to say that the artifacts of process management and improvement are not important. Of course, they are, but they must be a means to an end. When we get too close to them we lose the fundamental idea that process-based management must be about management. The M in BPM is for management, not modeling.

For any process, this is the important sequence of analysis questions:

  • What are the critical few measures of process performance?
  • How should the process perform?
  • How is the process performing?
  • Are the process performance gaps worth closing?
  • How could the gaps be closed?
  • What benefits would come from such changes?
  • Did it work? 

Yes, you need the right tools and techniques to do this well, but the most important question is the last one—did it work, can we prove that we have improved organizational performance?

If you work in or near a central process support group, make a list of what they produce. That list will include plenty of the usual process artifacts. Now imagine that each of those artifacts disappeared. How would the organization suffer? Who would notice? This is a tough test, but it must be the one we apply on a regular basis 

It’s tough test that process support groups can pass, but it won’t happen automatically. There must be a clear goal and deliberate action to make a positive difference in proven, accepted business terms. I have suggested previously that process-based management is 90% mindset and 10% toolset. That mindset must be strongest and most developed in a central support group if we are to relentlessly focus on ‘process value’ and avoid being distracted by ‘process things’. It requires a concerted effort to develop, evolve, and maintain process thinking. This is not going to happen without assiduous effort, and it’s not a one-off exercise.

Download free chapter of Reimagining Management


Topics: BPM - Business Process Management

Are Quick Wins a Fast Track to Process Improvement Failure?

Roger Tregear Roger Tregear on March 30, 2017

'Change is changing' (3).png

I get it. When it comes to process performance improvement, everybody wants quick wins. We want impressive improvement with as little effort as possible, and by Thursday of next week. And we’d like to win the lottery as well.

Of course, there are quick wins and we must seize them whenever we can, but, by definition, there won’t be many of them. We get stuck in, sort out the quick wins, and then…and then… then what? That’s it? Job done, everything is perfect and we can get back to business as usual? Seems unlikely.

Every organization needs a systematic approach to genuine continuous and measurable performance improvement based on continuous ‘problem finding’. That’s the first hurdle. Surely every organization would be happy to espouse continuous improvement; perhaps not so happy to continuously find and acknowledge problems. When was the last time you went to an office celebration put on because someone found a new problem?

The ‘continuous’ part of continuous improvement conflicts with the idea of quick wins; one suggests an ongoing effort and the other assumes a short-lived focus on the obvious and easy-to-fix problems.

For many, process improvement doesn’t have a good track record. Frustration with the non-performance, or at least under-performance, of process-improvement projects over many years has understandably led to suggestions for ‘rapid process-improvement’ approaches of various kinds. Strip out the waste from the process of process improvement and get on with delivering real improvements rather than just fancy methodologies and vague promises.

The main thrust of these approaches is to make short, focused projects that will deliver change in a fixed timetable, for example, five or twenty days. Such projects that have minimum costs and maximum return are a welcome change from projects that take a long time, cost a lot, and deliver little.

However, rapid doesn’t necessarily mean continuous. Focused, effective process-improvement projects are a significant improvement, but they are not, alone, the systematic approach that is required to achieve genuine continuous improvement.

A systematic approach where there is an unflagging search for problems, opportunities, improvements, and innovations will deliver a better result than any form of ad hoc project. This is way beyond quick wins.

The objective needs to be, not just rapid projects, but an unrelenting cycle of efficient and effective projects based on a constant, proactive search for process-improvement opportunities. These opportunities are not only about measured under-performance, but should also include ideas triggered by innovation thinking, and organizational and market change requirements. Just because nobody is complaining about a process doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. This needs to be a common part of business-as-usual thinking and practice; it needs to be embedded in the organizational culture.

When we focus on quick wins we unnecessarily set an end point to process improvement. The number of low-hanging fruit is finite and process improvement becomes a short-term project rather than a way of life.

Organizations need to replace ad hoc process improvement activities, these seemingly random acts of management, with a practical system whose intent and effect is to enable evidence-based decisions about effective, continuous process improvement.

That’s not as hard to do as you might think. Here are the six basic steps:

  1. Identify the key processes, starting at the highest level
  2. Make it someone’s job (part-time role) to worry about the cross-functional processes
  3. Decide the critical few measures of performance for those processes
  4. Collect current performance data and assess against the target levels
  5. Intervene as required to correct or prevent a problem, or to realize an opportunity
  6. Repeat, continuously.

This takes some persistent effort, but it’s not particularly hard to achieve. You aren’t trying to change the world overnight. In the medium-longer term process-based management will change the way work is managed and executed, but the steps outlined above are not disruptive to daily operations.

A calm, controlled pivot to process-based management will deliver all of the benefits of the quick wins, and then go on to find and deliver additional benefits. 

Download free chapter of Reimagining Management


Topics: BPM - Business Process Management

How Developing a Process Mindset Can Help You Avoid BPM Failure

Roger Tregear Roger Tregear on February 7, 2017

'Change is changing'.png Too many BPM initiatives fail. We’ve got to do better. 

Process-based management is not achieved and sustained by having the right software and methods, indeed you can probably make it work well with the wrong software and methods. Done properly, process-based management is a systemic approach to the relentless pursuit of organizational performance improvement. It’s largely a mind game. Put simply, to ‘do process’, an organization, its people, and their teams need to ‘think process’. 

In a process-centric organization, all employees are conscious that their roles are to participate in executing a range of processes. They think beyond the activities described in their own job descriptions to see their roles in the bigger picture of creating, accumulating, and delivering value to customers and other stakeholders via cross-functional processes. Yes, that is a big change.

The unrelenting emphasis is on conscious, cross-functional collaboration—and that is often challenging for individuals and functional units in an organization.

Achievement of effective, sustained, process-based management is ninety per cent mindset and ten per cent toolset. Too often, the focus is on the ten per cent at the expense of the ninety per cent. Tools, including software, systems, methods, and techniques, are critically important—the full one hundred per cent is needed—but the tools are not the main game.

Having the right tools is necessary but nowhere near sufficient for success. It might be argued that the mindset/toolset emphasis is 80/20, or perhaps even 70/30, rather than 90/10, but it’s certainly not the reverse of any of those. Tools and techniques alone won’t create a viral spread of the idea of process-based management. Hearts and minds are also needed.

To have any value, process-based management must support achievement of organizational objectives.

Success is not measured by the number of models drawn, the cleverness of a process architecture, the number of process measures identified, or the sophistication of automation. Success can only be claimed if organizational performance has been demonstrably improved as a result of taking a process view. The process mindset must be about achieving those consequences of effective process management and improvement; that is, it must be about improving organizational performance.

Having the process-based management idea resonate throughout an organization provides a shared mindset with which to build its practices.

The likelihood that organizations, teams, or individuals will adopt process-centric management approaches depends on what they think will happen if they do. When everyone is conscious of their contribution to the cross-functional processes that are delivering value, the result is process management excellence. The process mindset is not about attracting devotees to a theory, but about creating and sustaining change in the way work is designed, undertaken, and managed across the organization. 

The practical application of process-based management needs to take systemic form. It may not be enough to declare a commitment to ‘operational excellence’, since that might just imply working harder to keep poorly designed processes operational. ‘Excellence’ needs to be found in a ubiquitous desire to continually find ways to improve performance—not just in a continuous, heroic struggle to correct for process flaws.

Ironically, at the highest levels of BPM maturity, the practices of process-based management are so embedded in the culture, and so ubiquitous in practice, that they are virtually unseen. At the lowest levels of maturity, the idea of process does not even arise. As maturity develops, driven by the development of all seven enablers, individuals, and then teams, start to think about cross-functional processes.

Eventually those thoughts result in practical activities to shape and nurture process thinking. Over time, the application of process-based management becomes automatic and the classic definition of organizational culture, ‘the way we do things around here’, once more proves accurate.

Timing is everything. An organization must be ready to start, and continue, a journey to process-based management, a change that is as much about organizational culture as it is about the logistics of process management and improvement.

Passively waiting for the happy day when everyone is ready is clearly not a winning strategy. Neither is the development of a process mindset a Jedi mind trick, something that just requires the exercise of a greater and more powerful will.

A deliberate, well-designed plan is required to develop an organization’s process mindset, that is, its cultural readiness for process-based management. The ongoing results of such a plan need to be measurable.

Defining the process mindset

Minds are often hard to change, but it can be done. Once changed, minds are likely to stay changed for the same reason.

A process-aware organizational mindset will have a particular, and sometimes challenging, set of characteristics. It will be: 

  • measurement-friendly
  • community-focused
  • quality-motivated
  • change-welcoming
  • challenge-addicted
  • action-oriented.

Each of these is important.

The most challenging of the organizational characteristics might be an openness to performance measurement. One of the most significant roadblocks to robust and sustainable process improvement and management can be the absence of a measurement-friendly culture.

Where measurement is about finding someone to blame, catching people doing the ‘wrong thing’, then nobody will be pleased about the idea of additional measures. Acceptance of measurement as an exciting pathway to performance improvement must evolve for process-based management to succeed.

People and their teams who work with a highly-developed process mindset are constantly aware of the community effort involved in the creation, accumulation, and delivery of value to customers and other stakeholders. It’s not just about ‘my job’; it’s about ‘our job’ and how all involved collaborate to do the right work well.

A relentless drive to improve and produce quality outcomes is a key attribute of the process mindset. The search to find ‘better ways’ is never-ending, and the motivation to continuously improve quality is deeply embedded in the organizational culture.

Continuous process improvement means continuous change and, from time to time, significant change that poses challenges for the organization, its people, and their teams. The process mindset is uncomfortable in a static environment. 

Process improvement is not about making recommendations; it’s about making change. Well-designed, controlled action is required to realize the benefits.

In an organization with a well-developed process mindset, the following comments would be unremarkable:

  • It’s OK to make mistakes; we welcome the opportunity to learn and improve.
  • All questions are welcome and the organization is open to new ideas; we are willing to experiment.
  • People at all levels are listened to, and we have open discussions about new and contentious ideas; we welcome dissent.
  • We have a strong collaborative ethos without silos and turf wars; we strive for excellence by being collegiate and customer-focused. 

The absence of a process mindset at the organizational level is the difference between ad hoc attempts at process improvement, and the sustained operation of a systematic approach that deliberately and continuously discovers opportunities for process improvement, an approach that is embedded in the organizational culture. 

At the level of the individual, creating a process mindset is not necessarily about correcting some defect in staff motivation. The fact that poorly designed and/or managed processes work at all might be because of very high levels of motivation. 

In many cases, staff need to be highly motivated to find the work-arounds and put in the extra effort required to make processes work. So, to say that an organization needs to develop the process mindset of its staff is not to be critical of them. It means that the way work is described, measured, and managed needs to change, and that staff need to be made aware of, and fully included in, the collaboration that creates value. Staff need to receive the training and experiences that will allow them to work effectively in an organization with a well-developed process mindset.

Changing minds

Many practical strategies can be employed to develop the ‘process mindset’. Some of these include:

  • regular ‘community of interest’ meetings
  • process-improvement project discussion groups
  • library of process information
  • process innovation jams
  • documented success stories
  • open discussion of process performance results
  • idea submission schemes
  • recognition of individual and team excellence 

Training will also be necessary in topics such as: 

  • effective communication
  • lateral thinking
  • dealing with difficult people
  • teamwork
  • conflict resolution
  • system thinking

A process-aware organizational culture and mindset can evolve through active leadership and development plans, paving the way for successful and sustained process-based management. 

The target is to employ such development strategies to achieve a tipping point beyond which process thinking is the norm, to trigger the viral spread of the process idea, shaped and made relevant to the organization.

How does this Process-based management idea help to make life a little, or a lot, simpler and easier in day-to-day work? Those messages must be tailored to resonate with the different stakeholder groups. Everybody needs to see for themselves the practical meaning and purpose in the theory and practice of process-based management.

Changing minds is not a one-off project, nor a single series of time-limited activities. Continuous reinforcement is required to remind everyone why process thinking is important, and to validate the assertion that genuine and worthwhile benefits are accumulating.

If we are to improve our hit rate in achieving and sustaining effective process-based management, process thinking needs to be actively nurtured.

 Download free chapter of Reimagining Management

Topics: BPM - Business Process Management

Why business process is crucial for business transformation

Roger Tregear Roger Tregear on February 3, 2017

17_Change_is_Changing.pngChange is changing. The demand for change remains, in many ways such demands are increasing in both scope and frequency, but the nature of organizational change is also mutating. ‘Transformation’ is the increasingly common aspiration of contemporary organizations of all types and sizes. The same idea is also heard in discussions about the development and change of entire nations.

What do organizations mean by ‘transformation’? What is the vision for the transformed organization? What problem does transformation fix? Once transformed, what has changed in the organization?

Transformation has a range of meanings reflecting a spectrum of the degree and impact of the underlying changes. Along that spectrum three types of transformation can be defined:

  • improvement change: same service, improved delivery;
  • radical delivery change: same customer outcomes, different business model; and
  • profound and novel change: new services, different delivery model.

At one end of the spectrum, the way something is done, the way a service is delivered, changes, but it is essentially the same outcome. This is improvement, perhaps on a large scale. The objective is a better customer experience and improved efficiency.

For example, the replacement of manual flight check-in with an online service or biometric identification streamlines departure for the traveler, recovers traveler time for the airport and its retailers, reduces costs for the airline, and digitizes the complete process creating a dataset that may provoke further opportunities for management control and service innovation.

A little further along the spectrum, some transformations represent a change in business model where essentially the same customer requirements are satisfied through radically different means.

For example, it is no longer necessary to go to a physical Netflix store to rent or buy a DVD of the latest movie, that movie is now available for immediate download. Ride-sharing services, such as Lyft and Uber, are another example where the taxi and hire-car industries are being radically transformed but the need being met by the delivered service is essentially the same.

At the far end of the spectrum are the transformations that completely change an organization and its customers in profound and strategic ways; evolution delivers new services and delivery platforms. Google’s initial offering was the search engine. Evolution of the Google platform and services has several trajectories, including from digital mapping to self-driving cars—not just searching for the restaurant that meets your requirements and locating it on a map, but now driving you there and bringing you home. ‘Google it’ may come to have a very different meaning.

 These are all big changes with significant impacts for organizations, their customers, and other stakeholders. Perhaps organizations will seek to move beyond continuous improvement to continuous transformation. How should they prepare for this? How can organizations develop an ability to deal with turbulent change? How can they prepare for both the expected and unexpected?

Of course, there are many answers to those questions. The one relevant to this discussion concerns the fundamental question ‘what is it that is being transformed?’. Whether a bank is transforming its loan approval timescales from three weeks to three clicks, or a government agency is radically changing the way citizens are supported, or a supply chain manager is fine tuning a complex global delivery network, the fundamental element of change is the business process. Whatever else is being changed, process change is inevitable and is often the key driver. Business processes are the way organizations get work done. If transformation is about changing the work that is required and the way it is done, then it must be about changing business processes.

Understanding current and future business processes, and the difference between them, is critical for success in any transformation program. How are the processes performing now, and what will the transformed performance look like? What other processes will be directly or indirectly impacted by the planned changes?

An overall view of the architecture of the business processes is required to be sure that interdependencies are well understood. The current and targeted performance gaps need to be defined and the realization of business benefits resulting from the changes must be proven. Successful transformation also requires the evolution of organizational culture and capabilities. In times of transformation, there must be appropriate support to help staff deal with the changes, and to be sensing and responding to the developing situation.

Transformation implies significant change and these are changes being made to a complex system. A systematic approach to business process change is required to enable successful and sustained transformation.

Deep understanding of an organization’s processes is a prerequisite for a successful transformation program. Process-based management is vital for organizational transformation. In any transformation project, large and complex business processes are being transformed. To attempt this without deep knowledge of those processes, puts more reliance on hope than strategy.

Download free chapter of Reimagining Management

Topics: BPM - Business Process Management

Using Positive Deviance (+D) in Process Improvement

Roger Tregear Roger Tregear on October 5, 2016


As we model and analyze business processes seeking to improve them, we often look for common failure modes, circumstances where many instances of the process execution show a common problem. Pareto is our friend, and we hope to find just a few causes of many problems. Our focus is on problems and their causes. We focus on what normally happens and put aside  the variations. We concentrate on the common and statistically significant, since that’s where we have the most information and understanding, and where we will find the major performance process improvement impacts. That all seems fairly logical doesn’t it? Yes it does, and sometimes it’s also the completely wrong approach; sometimes the focus on the significant and common occurrences blinds us to the powerful insights to be gained from the insignificant and the exceptional.

What if, as well as looking at problems and their causes, we also looked for opportunities and their constraints? What if, instead of dismissing the exceptions for lack of statistical significance, we embraced the exceptions because they are exceptional? If we look outside of the ‘normal middle’ of the performance curve, what can we learn from the outliers?

In his book of the same name, Malcolm Gladwell1 defines an outlier as “a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others in the sample.” He analyzes the circumstances in which people, and groups of people, achieved exceptional success, ie how they became outliers. Covering a very wide canvas – millionaires, communities and law firms to cultures, hockey stars and plane crashes – Gladwell shows that success has a context, and that this context can often be described, analyzed and replicated. From his many examples, he clearly demonstrates that exceptional performance is not an accidental occurrence, and if we study the outliers we can find the cause of the exceptional effect.

Gladwell focuses on successful people in his ‘outliers’ thesis. His premise, that success has a context and is not random, can also be applied to business process performance. If, in  a particular circumstance, process performance is exceptional (positively or negatively), what can that tell us? Can we learn to avoid the negative and replicate the positive conditions? What arethe “vital behaviors” 2 that cause a process to work really well? (Patterson et al model the circumstances that have caused ‘outlier’ performance in difficult change management contexts.

Their work has important implications for business process change – but that’s a subject for another time). If we could isolate those success factors that create the rare exceptions, could we use them to improve performance across all instances? 

What if we could take the bottom 20% of performers and make them even just average performers?

That could be a massive improvement.

The idea of Positive Deviance (+D) can be very effectively applied to business process performance improvement 3. The +D approach is a problem-solving approach for complex behavior and social change. In its original application mode, the approach enables communities  to discover existing solutions to complex problems within the community 4

The term “Positive Deviance” was first used in relation to research into human nutrition in the 1990s where the existence of “Positive Deviant” children in poor communities who were better nourished than others was documented. Rather than focus on community-wide issues, the project focused on discovering and amplifying what was going right in relation to the particular children whose nutrition was significantly better than others. The insights gained from this approach  were then used to radically improve nutrition across the community. Based on that seminal work, +D has  been  operationalized as  a  tool  to  promote  behavior  and  social change and  to  organize various social change interventions around the world. Although the origin and main use of +D has been in resolving seemingly intractable social and community problems, the concepts can be applied to any environment where appropriate comparative performance data is available.

Screen_Shot_2016-09-14_at_11.44.30_AM.pngIn any distribution of performance outcomes, some data will exist at the extremes. These are the deviants, the results that show very different (positive  or negative) outcomes to the   mean. +D    analysis focuses on the positive variants.  It seeks to understand why performance in those cases is so much better and how that success might be translated across the population.

+D has been used with profound success to address a wide range of social and community issues including childhood malnutrition, neo-natal mortality, girl trafficking, school drop-out, antibiotic resistant bacteria infections and HIV/AIDS. The development and application of the approach is documented in The Power of Positive Deviance 5. It is not my intention here to replicate the contents  of  that  book,  nor  do  I  mean  to  minimize  the  sophistication  and  complexity  of the approach. I will draw some conclusions from the +D theory and practice below, but it’s an important book and process practitioners might usefully read it for themselves.

Note that in +D analyses we must have comparable and accurate data from a coherent set of examples. The population-in-focus needs to be closely associated, e.g. a set of offices in the same organization, a series of call centers run by the same company, dealerships for the same car brands across a territory, or outlets in the same retail chain. This is not a version of generic “best practice” or “industry benchmarking”. For +D to be effective, we must have unrestricted access to all performance data for the entities being examined, and the entities (the business processes) must be directly comparable.

In the business process context we can search for examples where a particular process is being executed extremely well, i.e. we look for the Positive Deviant (PD). PDs are examples of exceptional good performance and are the cases that we might otherwise dismiss as not being representative of what “normally happens” in the execution of the process. 

This is not a simple matter of spotting the high end positive performance and “making the rest like that”. Spotting the high performers might be easy enough if the data is available, e.g. number of defects, amount of rework, sales volume etc, but establishing the causal effects will be much harder. What is it about the positive deviants that causes their success? Indeed, what do we really mean by “success”. For example, what if an application assessment process is consistently executed at a level of success (however that is defined) in one office that is consistently much higher than in any other office? Rather than dismiss this as an aberration, we might usefully search for the cause of the exceptional performance. There may be many variables that apparently correlate to success, but we need to discover those that are a direct cause. The exceptional performance might be due to personnel, location, facilities, training, customer demographics, local organizational culture, adherence to SOPs, technical understanding of  policy, perceptions of empowerment, weather … or any number of variables. Which of these are causally linked to the high performance? What elements can be isolated in this special office and transferred to the others to raise the overall level of process performance and reduce the amount of deviation across the population. Inevitably, this requires complex statistical analysis and the inclusion of an experienced data scientist on the process improvement project team is necessary to properly identify the vital behaviors and circumstances that create the PD.

Using the +D Approach

An outline of how a process improvement project might use the +D approach is presented below. In the right circumstances, it is a powerful tool, but don’t underestimate the degree of difficulty  and the need for lots of appropriate data.

The main project activities are as follows:

  1. Determine how success is measured so as to understand the criteria by which PDs can be identified. This needs to be done with precision and clear
  1. Collect data to populate the PD identification criteria defined above. Make sure this is objective, measured data that will allow clear performance rankings to be 
  1. Identify the PDs. Are there examples of exceptional performance identified in the data?
  1. Identify the factors that might be making the PDs exceptional. There may be many variables in
  1. Now is the time for hard core statistical analysis to define the factors with causal links to exceptional performance. This analysis determines the vital behaviors that create a
  1. Conduct controlled tests to prove the performance excellence hypotheses coming from the PD
  1. Communicate the PD practices across the population, e.g. videos, new policies, roadshows etc. This is a critical part of the change management

Avoiding Problems

Although it can be a very powerful tool, +D analysis is not as easy as it might seem at first glance. Some of the potential problems and related countermeasures, are presented:

Problem:  Failure to identify the meaning of “success”


  • extensive observation
  • discussion with key stakeholders 
  • create an effective performance data set

Problem:  Failure to identify the complete set of variables that might impact performance


  • extensive observation
  • discussion with key stakeholders
  • collect and collate all available data related to the success measures
  • use a variety of discovery vectors: videos, interviews, documents, observations, mystery shopping, process walkthroughs, process mining
  • apply discovery approaches across many instances of the process
  • think laterally, looking for the ‘hidden’ factors

Problem: Failure to correctly identify the vital behaviors and circumstances which are the cause of the exceptional performance


  • include a skilled data scientist in the analysis team
  • be guided by the data, not by common ideas of “best practice”
  • ensure that causation is proven, not just correlation
  • conduct controlled tests to prove the hypotheses

Problem: Failure to effect change to reflect the PD performance insights


  • communicate, communicate, communicate
  • demonstrate, beyond doubt, to all stakeholders that the proposed changes are proven to be effective
  • involve key stakeholders in the proof-of-concept tests so they can have a personal experience of the positive effects of changes
  • monitor the effects of the changes and adjust if necessary

In Conclusion

Positive Deviance practices can help us discover the sorts of significant business process improvements that should be our goal. It’s too easy to be satisfied with mundane and incremental improvements. Occasionally, at least, the results of process improvement should be remarkable

There is a lot to be gained by looking closely at the circumstances that give rise to process instances that are well outside the center of the normal performance distribution. Rather than reject rare examples of extraordinary performance as statistically insignificant aberrations, embrace the exceptional and seek to make it the new norm.

New Call-to-action


Gladwell, Malcolm. 2008. Outliers: The story of success. Little, Brown and Company.

 Patterson,  Kerry,  Joseph  Grenny,  David  Maxfield,  Ron  McMillan,  and  Al  Switzler.    2008. Influencer: The power to change anything. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp 28.

I gratefully acknowledge Professor Michael Rosemann, and his team at the Queensland University of Technology, for the insight into the use of Positive Deviance analysis in process improvement. The BPM Group at QUT is itself an excellent example of a Positive Deviant in the analysis and innovation of the ‘process of process management’. 

Further information at www.positivedeviance.org.

Pascale, Richard, Jerry Sternin, Monique Sternin. 2010. The Power of Positive Deviance: How unlikely innovators solve the world’s toughest problems. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.

This artcle was orginally posted on www.bptrends.com

Topics: BPM - Business Process Management