Avoid creating more Corporate Debris

It would probably not take you long to look through the records of any organisation and find some items, probably lots of items, that are Corporate Debris.

There are two types of debris left behind by projects, specifically by Process Projects;

  1. Process models, descriptions, requirements, design, strategy and good intention that have never been utilised, and
  2. Previous versions of the above artefacts that have been replaced or updated; however the original versions are still being used or are accessible within the organisation.

I have seen too many examples of enthusiastic projects that have created a new process, procedure or strategy that has not been adopted or sustained in the business after the project has been completed. I had one experience where I was shown a department’s “Process Library”. It was sitting in a series of well presented folders in a small cupboard in the Directors office – that’s as far as the project had got to real change.

The best case scenario is that a lot of money is wasted as the project has clearly not achieved it’s outcomes; however the more common worst case is that the opportunity lost is followed up by disappointment and scepticism that a process project can never be successful.

The end users are often victims of corporate debris as they find various versions of “the truth” in knowledge libraries and they struggle with which processes or work instructions they are meant to be following. If there is a renewed attempt to improve the process, they will often start from step one because no-one is sure which of the previous versions of analysis to use and just how correct were they?

At the 2009 Process Days conference I sat on a panel that discussed the value of Process Modelling. My contribution was to state that process modelling was only valuable if creating the models generated share understanding and the result was actually going to be used. I asked for our process models to be living.

I wish I had found this George Box quote last year, “All models are wrong, some are useful”.

How to build “living process models”

There are a number of simple Information Management principles that should be applied to organisational information like;

  • Recognise corporate information and manage it’s lifecycle – Creation to Removal
  • Be ruthless – Just because it is stored electronically, it doesn’t mean you can ignore it!
  • If it is important corporate information – hold someone accountable for managing it!

    There is much more that goes into an Information Management strategy; however that’s another Business Process for another article!

    A living process model is a representation of your Business Process that is constantly referred to and updated by the people who are living and breathing the process. If I ask anyone who is involved in the process what documentation are they using to guide their work; I should always be pointed to an artefact that is linked to the current Business Process model.

    Keeping Process Models up-to-date is often an issue. The workers are not going to maintain the process information if an update involves a 12-week review cycle. Imagine a world where the living process can be updated within 1 day, with 1 reviewer!

    There are 2 keys things that are needed to achieve living processes;

    1. A process modelling platform that allows you to publish the current process diagrams to everyone, with all of the relevant information relating to actually doing the process activities, and a process to keep it up to date.
    2. Adopting enterprise processes to design, share, improve, measure and be responsible for all living business processes.

    It sounds easy? What would you need to do to bring your business processes to life?

    Why Processes need Projects and Projects need Processes

    In a recent post, and some back and forth with The Process Ninja, we discussed the Good and Bad of Process Projects; this led me to think about my days learning about process and projects, both of which I am quite passionate about.

    Whether you call it a project or not, the only way to make a significant change in an organisation is through a project, as defined “A temporary endeavour … undertaken to meet unique goals and objectives”; however I believe a project is not where a Business Process is made!

    How are Business Processes conceived and enacted?

    Business Processes have existed in organisations forever, and they will exist regardless of any specific Process Management activities. A Process Management initiative is about improving the way a Business Process is defined, resourced and operated. Therefore, a process project is really about creating capabilities to support the Business Process, not the process itself!

    A common theme across my favourite BPM methodologies (Process Renewal Group and BPTrends) is that;

    First the organisation understands it’s processes at the enterprise level;
    Then, governance at the enterprise level decides to improve a particular process;
    A process project is born.

    Contrast this to a more traditional approach, where a project is created to improve an area of the business and one of the many outputs of the project is to model the related processes!

    So what’s the difference? Firstly, improving the Business Process is why a project exists – so doing process analysis and design is fundamental – not just another output, then once the to-be future process is well understood, then the project is about building capability. This is why a project is necessary – we are changing the organisation to be able to enact the new process!

    Roger Burlton defined six areas of capability that projects build to support processes, they are;

    1. Human Competency
    2. Business Rules
    3. Organisation
    4. Facilities
    5. Technology
    6. Motivation

    The outputs of the project are to build the required capabilities to support the business process, e.g. The required people skills, decision model, organisational structure, capital equipment, computer systems and reward structures that match the requirements of the business process.

    This leads me to a key point; A project does not implement a Business Process; instead the organisation uses the outputs of the project to execute the process the way it has been designed!

    • Projects are created to improve a Business Process (or part of one).
    • Project OUTPUTS are the capabilities that support Business Processes.
    • Improved Business Processes are OUTCOMES of Projects.

    Good Projects versus Bad Projects?

    A passionate spiel from The Process Ninja entitled, “Lessons from a Process Project Failure“, hit home with me as I was reading it today. Craig has reflected many situations that I have also experienced with projects, especially the paradox when a project is celebrated as a success when the end result has been less than ideal.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important to celebrate the achievements of the organisation; however the issue is that the lessons are not learnt and the failings of the project are destined to be repeated.

    The most disappointing project failures I have seen have been where the initial benefits sought included a strategic vision that the new process would be delivered to increase customer value and maximise enterprise value – by the end of the project both of these ideals have been de-scoped and the organisation is often left with another process implemented in isolation, committing the organisation to a maintenance and integration burden and not adding any real value to the customer. Innovation has most likely been lost to “just making it work”.

    I often start a project with big picture thinking; “What is the best way this process can be done for the organisation, the customer and our part of the business”, how do you think I go? Generally I don’t get very far, it’s a great idea to be strategic; however the project owner has already scoped and budgeted the project – there is rarely enough money or brain power to do it right. “That’s OK, we’ll pick the rest up the next time around”; but we never do.

    The worst part is that the people who are really passionate about Business Processes end up delving down into the analysis or the system and are never heard from again, paradise lost.

    There are a number of solutions to this problem, including integrating portfolios, projects and process management. The solution I will be looking at involves adopting Process Thinking across the organisation… If a project is hard, how can we achieve such a deep change in thinking?