The Human Focus of Business Processes and Systems

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Strategic Business Plans and end-to-end Business Processes are important. Larger businesses also need and in fact have multiple layers of intermediate level systems and processes to ensure that the enterprises’ global and regional super systems are integrated and congruent.    During the planning and decision phases senior executives and groups of managers seem to enjoy and be energized by the sight of those big wall sized, banner style, swim lane maps.   They make good use of them in focusing senior decision maker attention on critical issues with program and project plans – but what really matters for a process centric organization’s daily operations is – the effective establishment and institutionalization of the lower level, individual processes and their understanding and use by the individual workers.   

The precursor to this however is the development of a recognition of the need for this additional  knowledge of the companies processes by the junior and mid level managers,  and the more the executives know as well, the better.   Ken Orr recently reminded us in one of his recent presentations of a quote in the Rummler-Brache book “Improving Performance” that basically states that “Many managers don’t understand their businesses….they may understand their products and services, …may even understand their customers and competitors….but they often don’t understand, to a sufficient level of detail, how their business gets the products developed, made, sold and distributed”  the slides goes on to say that they believe this to be the case because most of the mangers have a fundamentally flawed “view” of their organization.   

It is this lower level detail and more precisely the struggle for and absence of the knowledge of those details that is “the” driving force behind the business need for the standard visual depictions of them in the form of Business Process Maps.   It is Business Process Maps that are what is needed first by Business Managers, not of the models of automation workflow behind it.

And once managers have standardized maps and gain an understanding of how to read them then they start to feel and more importantly think of the maps as a language that they can share and communicate with.    Then they are in position to read and understand several maps – beyond the ones you may have personally made, and when managers have begun to absorb map reading as a real language for them to use….then the lights come on!  Then they’ve broken through…and they suddenly see the vision of corporate wide mapping, and become aware of this huge spider web of processes and systems running  within the company, and begin to recognize the need to map the processes, company wide, so they can see them and understand them ….and they start to draw sketches about Ideas they start having about changing parts of them that they’ve been having problems with in the past, because they also now recognize that the maps – are themselves a path to organized change, and more importantly to real change management, and moving the company towards a process centric organization.

Real access to this vast pool of corporate (institutional) knowledge, which usually stays locked up, inaccessible in peoples heads, can be gained through the establishment of an active Business Process Mapping Program.   Once it’s opened up the company can then start to realize the value of this institutional knowledge and the employees can continue to grow and build on what they already have and add even more to the corporate knowledge base contained in the maps.   Yes – there is actual real monetary value in Business Process Maps themselves, as they are a source of corporate intellectual property.  That value alone makes it worth the effort and cost involved in capturing, documenting and maintaining good lower level process maps.  

There is an energy that is unleashed during the map discovery and development phase in groups that is contagious and can spread across an organization.   It is the sudden feeling of the awareness of knowing what needs to change and the sense of empowerment that you can be part of making that change occur and perhaps most importantly – that once that change is made their work will be easier, less stressful and more productive. Employees suddenly feel like they have a real opportunity to improve their own working conditions.  

Business Process mapping and establishing a process centric organization is the path to giving workers access to changing their daily working conditions and allowing them to assume greater responsibility by taking ownership of certain parts of things without giving up the controls to the processes that management needs to maintain in order to ensure the unity of purpose and the ability to anticipate and make the key decisions.       

Stan K Tucker, 

Business Process Scientist and Owner

Business Process Science and Services,

Appleton, Wisconsin.

Aug 2005

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