I love to spot process incongruities. I was in line at a rather well-known chain, cafeteria-line-style restaurant the other day, and noticed that there was only one server for the whole mass of hungry people. The line – needless to say – was moving very slowly. A few of us looked at each other, and then I said, “Hey! Where’s all your help? They’ve left you alone to do all the work.” The answer shocked me: “Oh, the others are in the back, preparing more food so we don’t run out and you don’t have to wait.”
This is funny, isn’t it? Effectively, the answer was, “You’re waiting because we’re doing something to make sure you won’t have to wait.”
This is a story of a few well-known BPM traps:
- Partial functional excellence will lead to end-to-end failure – The food preparers were doing the right thing. They were cooking delicious food and they didn’t want to run out. But, the entire process – aka “eating lunch” – was a failure from the end-to-end perspective. In reality, this wasn’t even functional excellence. It was partial-functional excellence. By leaving the line unstaffed, they optimized themselves into functional dysfunction on that silo. Anytime you have a functional inefficiency in the pipeline, you pretty much kiss end-to-end efficiencies goodbye. But, even if all the functional silos are working, you can still die on the end-to-end.
- Process metrics misalignment – Just what metrics were they using for success? One was clearly, “Don’t run out of food.” That’s good. But, another was, “Don’t make people wait.” They failed there. Metrics interact. If you don’t acknowledge that, you’re toast.
- Poor visibility – Did the line worker see the obvious silliness of her comment, “We’re making you wait because we’re doing something so you don’t wait” ? Probably not. She was too busy keeping up with the line’s requests. Just who had visibility here? Did management? Where was management?
This reality check is not just for cafeteria lines; it applies to all processes. If you optimize on functional silos (prep food, serve food, pay for food, etc), then you’re probably in trouble. If you don’t know your metrics, you’re in trouble. If you don’t have process visibility, you’re running blind.
Process excellence – why is it so elusive?
Category: Business Process Management (BPM) Tags: