What's it all about? If you google "what's it all about" you get 4.5 billion results. Seems that we are keen to answer that question. Of course, it would be much more useful if there were just one answer. I have a similar experience when I ask people what they understand by "business process management" and related phrases. [2.5 billion, in case you were wondering.] It would be of significant benefit if there were just one answer here also. Good news! There is just one answer. The bad news is we all agree with that but have a different version. The great news is that we can solve this problem — if you all repent and agree with me!
Processes deliver Every organization makes promises to customers and other stakeholders. Such promises are its reason for existence and are shaped as value propositions in the organizational strategy. Traditional management follows the organization chart with most management activity directed up and down that chart. But how do we get work done? How do we deliver on those promises? We work in collaboration across the organization, not up and down. Is there any box on that chart that can, by itself, deliver products or services externally? No there is not, that’s not the way it works. Processes deliver on our promises.
The simple existence of a problem is not enough reason to invest in fixing it, perhaps not now, perhaps not ever. Organizations need a systemic approach to define what good looks like, assess current performance, and make evidence-based decisions about which performance gaps to close. The Tregear Circles replace random acts of management with a metamodel for continuous process improvement. I have recently encountered several examples of the idea that higher process performance target scores are obviously better than lower ones, just because they are … well … higher; that setting a target of, say, 95% is, without doubt, better than a target of 88%, and in striving for improvement we should go 'as high as possible'.
Although I’ve spent the majority of my career on the consulting side of the fence I’ve also spent ten years on the client side, in senior IT roles, where I purchased a lot of software. It was in 2006 that software sales people started offering alternatives to the traditional model of licence plus annual maintenance for proprietary software. These sales people were offering SaaS solutions and subscription-based open source software, neither of which I seriously contemplated buying. Given that SaaS and open source software are now an everyday part of the IT landscape - why was I entirely unwilling to consider them a dozen or so years ago? The answer is simple. In neither case did they offer the benefits they do today, and, worse, the people selling them struggled to articulate what the real benefits of their offerings actually were. For the purposes of this post I’ll leave the SaaS model aside to instead focus on open source software.
The development of organizational management theory should seek to make operational management simpler, not more complex. Is it possible that the primary goal of organizational performance improvement gets lost in the ever-increasing list of shiny objects such as transformation, digitalization, robotization, valuation, acceleration, innovation, automation, and disruption? Are the -ion ideas a distraction or a boon for good management? "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exupéry