Too Much “Process” in BPI: A Lesson for Project Workforce Managers in a Flat World


Gantthead has published a series of new articles related to Business Process Improvement (BPI). In particular, these articles are about aligning IT with business objectives.

Although these articles contain some useful information on a high level, they do not address one important aspect of BPI that I believe has the greatest impact on its effectiveness: complexity. One article in particular, "Alignment: The Next Evolution of BPI" by Michael R. Wood, lays out a complex model for BPI that looks like it evolved from a large organization.

Wood states:

Business Process Alignment begins in the boardroom with the basic premise that sustained success can only be achieved through an aligned organization. Next, this premise must become the mantra of management and be driven down into the culture so that everyone, everywhere is living and breathing the alignment philosophy. Of course this implies that the goals of the organization are stated in simple and operational terms, and communicated frequently and often to the workforce. It requires that processes be put in place to continuously collect, review and discuss alignment-related information.

This sounds empowering to the workforce, but Wood stops short of that. He then recommends a series of business planning and reporting mechanisms that can actually add weight to the organization, slow down decision making, and obscure the real objectives.

I can’t argue that GAP analysis, Business Process Oversight Groups, scorecards, and end-to-end processes work–Wood has a great deal of experience, and many businesses work this way. But I don’t believe that this is the way organizations will thrive in a flat world. It sounds empowering to the workforce, but when I read Wood’s list of business planning process components, I see a lot of documents, meetings and overhead. I see a lot of decisions moving up and down–not across–the organization, and I see a lot of potential for resistance to change. This is somewhat leaning towards project management by paperwork and bureaucracy.

Instead, I advocate a project-based, workflow-driven, "Hollywood"-based model IT organization. This is a much better approach to aligning IT with the business, simply because small, empowered teams can make decisions and get things done. I agree that the leadership of an organization needs to set objectives. Then, reward the workforce for meeting those objectives, give them the tools and the authority they need, and let them figure out the process. (We do this at Tenrox: here’s how.)

The more "official heavy process, review sessions, meetings and paperwork" an organization puts into Business Process Improvement, the less chance it has to really improve anything.

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