Sunday, May 06, 2007

Do you have process maturity at the right place first?

Today I was "babysitting", taking care of a 2.5 year girl. Wonderful. Outside, sunny, and running around together with this gorgeous bundle of joy, energy and learning. It's a wonder to see small children learn. I must say, evolution has given children the right tools to grow up:
- Great Curiousness
- Joy and Courage
- The will to repeat again and again and again, (and getting better all the time as a result)

It made me realize an important thing about abilities in a company. There is quite some talk about "Business process management maturity" models. As a sidenote: did you ever meet a CEO that stayed awake at night, worrying how to get higher in the maturity model? Right...

Anyway, children grow up and learn. And they have the right skills for this learning.
But if we want to help grow a company, and get better processes, where would you start?
I have seen many checklists to hunt down the right process. The biggest bang for you buck, the most visibility, the best etc. Frontoffice! No, backoffice! Uhm, supporting processes first. No, the most fat slow cost-intensive. Probably, they are all right a bit.

But maybe more important than which process to pick, is the question how to proceed. Think of any activity in your company that delivers change. So, not the base processes (sell, procure, invoice, etc), but processes that change these base processes. Not much companies realize they have many of these types of processes as well. Some of them:
- New product development
- New IT systems
- Responding to changes in legislation
- Updating your brand and communications
- Management wanting a new way of reporting

Now think about your strength in these types of processes.
As a small example, I worked for a company selling insurance products. They were ok doing that. But developing new ones or changes? A nightmare. No visible process, more a large group of people spending most time influencing and disagreeing. Efficient? Right.
I don't think that in general, companies are strong in their change oriented processes.
Now, compare that to the little girl, and her great learning ability....

Maybe when we are starting change or improvement projects, we should spent more time growing our change/learn ability. See this as one of the strategic goals in your project. Maybe even assess it first, and become aware of common pittfalls in your company.

Your change ability is:
1. a CSF for any running project or change process
2. A competitive advantage in general (confirmed in research on High Performance Organisations)

So, if you want to grow process maturity, grow your maturity in your change abilities first (or too!)


whuberts said...

I like your child comparison, but miss two important factors, that can make or break a change or learning experience.

The first is experience. Children are a greenfield and can act like a greenfield. They have no frame of reference, constraints or blocks from previous experiences, which makes learning fun and easy, which brings me to the second factor, expectations.

Children have no expectations. They just do and change and learn. When we grow older we get experienced and expect results from the things we do, which makes changing and learning much more difficult. Certainly in a complex environment, where everyone and every organisation has its own expectations.

That is the reason that younger people get things done and older people get trapped in their experiences and expectations.

Bottomline: Approach every change as a whole new experience, don't expect too much, just do it :-)

Roeland Loggen said...

Thanks for your comment!

I agree, and like your bottomline (sounds like Zen to me :-))

The price of getting older, is that one has associations with everything….

The big question in (among others BPM) change is how to keep that interest, and low expectations, even with less-mature (or more demanding) managers or projectteam…