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How “Brittle” Are Your Processes?

by Elise Olding  |  May 4, 2011  |  6 Comments

Having returned last week from the Gartner BPM Summit in Baltimore, I have been mashing together the ideas that came out of the many discussions. One that has surfaced is the concept of inflexible or “brittle” processes and the correlation with organizational rigidity.

As we shared at the conference “by 2015, the ability to embrace and master continuous change will define competitive advantage.” I believe that there is a strong connection between how brittle processes are and how inflexible (or change-averse) the culture is. Focusing process efforts on goals such as efficiency and standardization tend to reinforce more rigidity in the organization’s culture. There is little room for improvisation and no tolerance for failure. Focusing on visibility, accountability and adaptability (our tenets of BPM), enable organizational learning and can move the dial towards a more adaptable, resilient culture – what we call “organizational liquidity.”

Some of the ways ways of making processes less brittle include:

Think outside-in rather than the tradition inside out view of our processes. Our organizations have been designed to maximize efficiency from an internal view. The whole process reference model needs to get turned on its head to represent an outside in view. This model embraces responsiveness and drives accountabilty into the organization. I believe that we will see that evolving over the next five years.

Think about the outcome of the work and not so much about how it gets done. A baseball pitcher doesn’t throw one type of ball. He/she assesses the game situation, who is up to bat and what their capabilities are. The throw is an outcome. Sure all the mechanics and talent are there, but each throw is made up of repackaging individual steps to reach that outcome. We will need to manage process risks and costs, but must also look to engage the knowledge, expertise and passion that can be locked up in process participants heads. Variability is not the enemy if you are trying to achieve process effectiveness.

Think about how to embed collaboration and social interaction into the work that happens inside your enterprise. Social BPM techniques enable work to happen more naturally and lets processes to mirror the way people work. When people work together they create and creativity is fluid. We are social animals and the sum of the parts add up to more than the whole.

It’s always back to the chicken and the egg. Does a great culture drive better processes or do good processes enable a great culture? I’m going to put a stake in the ground that it starts with process and as BPM practitioners we can make a difference.

What are your thoughts? Are these statement true?

  • Brittle processes = brittle culture
  • Socially enabled, changeable, adaptive, transparent processes = socially enabled, changeable, adaptive, transparent culture

Category: bpm-strategic-planning  gartner  organizational-change  

Tags: bpm  brittle-process  culture  organizational-change  

Elise Olding
Research Director
7 years at Gartner
32 years IT industry

Elise Olding is a Research Director covering the complex challenges of organizational change and business transformation from a people perspective. Her areas of focus include organizational change, communications strategies and emerging trends in employee engagement from a hands-on practitioner view. Ms. Olding provides research on a worldwide basis, advising clients on best practices to achieve sustainable change and business transformation. She is a member of Gartner's Business Process and Transformation team. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on How “Brittle” Are Your Processes?

  1. Chris Taylor says:

    As a baseball fan, I thought your analogy was spot on. I just spent two days at “Big Brown” as UPS calls itself and even a 100+ year old business is highly aware that their culture is changing (and must change) with the faster pace of innovation and an increasingly competitive landscape. As you say, as your process culture goes, so goes your corporate culture.

  2. Chris Taylor says:

    Not sure if my previous comment was captured…

    I am a big baseball fan and the analogy was spot on. I just spent two days at “Big Brown” in Atlanta and even 100+ year-old UPS is talking about the changing culture driven by the changes in business process. The social paradigm, when added to the science of process, creates conversations that will rapidly increase the flexibility of an organization.

  3. […] BPM and Organizational Culture – Elise Olding I believe that there is a strong connection between how brittle processes are […]

  4. […] BPM and Organizational Culture – Elise Olding I believe that there is a strong connection between how brittle processes are […]

  5. […] Elise Olding is a research director in Gartner's Business Process Management (BPM) group. Ms. Olding provides research on a worldwide basis, advising clients on BPM implementation practices. Read Full Bio Coverage Areas: ← How “Brittle” Are Your Processes? […]

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