posted by Mike Rollings
Last week I went to Cocoa Beach Florida to collaborate with Richard Watson, Anne Thomas Manes, Chris Haddad, and Kirk Knoernschild on our Business Process Management (BPM) research initiative. Throughout the week we analyzed the results of our client and non-client interviews. Many interesting insights were formed regarding their experiences, and we learned a lot from their struggle to do BPM.
One insight that I want to share with you is related to the same struggle that organization's have with pursuing enterprise architecture (EA) and service oriented architecture (SOA) -- BPM is a discipline not an approach.
If you think that a methodology or a 'way of doing something' is the secret sauce for BPM, EA, SOA or any other programmatic change initiative then look a bit harder. The real secret sauce is recognizing that you are dealing with adoption of an organizational discipline -- a lifestyle change. For these initiatives to be successful you need to get the whole body involved.
BPM is no different. Many struggle with finding the right approach, gaining adoption, rising above an automation mindset, and several other challenges. Yet, all volunteer that culture is something really hard to overcome. Culture has become our favorite punch-line to a very bad joke. "Did you hear the one about the organization adopting _ _ _? They could not change their culture". Just fill in your favorite initiative, chuckle, and then commiserate with your neighbor.
It seems that organizations give up on transformation and put in place coping strategies to live within the status quo. They give up on asking the question "should we be doing this process at all" and instead ask "how can we automate what you are doing". More often than not they give up even before trying and look for the path of least resistance. It appears easier to go after automation, then monitoring, and then improvement. But would you really make it any easier to change status quo? No. The net effect is further calcification.
BPM will not make any automated process easier to change if humans never examine its relevance and value to the larger whole. The notion that you can convince someone to change later after you have further solidified their beliefs is delusional. Want to hear a radical thought? Some have even figured out that doing process execution is the LEAST valuable part of the endeavor -- they are focused on business optimization. Notice I did not say 'process', I said 'business'. Yes, like we have learned before, you can do a discipline without shiny new tools. Tools can help, but a tool-centric approach is not going to give the organization discipline.
Repeat after me "Organizations adopt disciplines and people adopt approaches".
For more information, Burton Group clients can refer to "Real Transformation: Why IT Change Is Not Enough".