Monday, June 25, 2007

Lean and BPM - growing attention. But where are the Academics?

I just saw two articles on the use of Lean in the context of Business Process Management (published through BPM institute, ah, at least one BPM group that is surviving ;-)).

And I am glad that we see this trend developing. In my opinion, Lean is a great process improvement framework, that we can apply in the area of BPM.
The big change from the BPR times is this: When BPR was big, basically the only process improvement groundrules we had, were, well, take a blank paper, and start all over.
But... where we used to have the "magical" step, going from current state process to future state, we now have a growing set of best practices and frameworks that make the process improvement step more based on sound research and practical experiences at other companies (such as Toyota).
Type BPM and Lean in Google and there are more and more hits.
The same on BPM and Six Sigma.

The only thing I am waiting for/hoping for is more activity in the field of academics - research on process concepts in the services industry... We need sound research and a better conceptual framework for service processes. While great work has been done on operations research and management, in the area of logistics and manufacturing, the "logistics" in services are not well understood. We know there is things as "cycletime" "Work in progress inventory" "flow"
"resource scheduling". But we need a better framework of theorie and optimization methods.

Anyone that has a perspective on this - reactions welcome!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

(Dutch market): Lean survey

A request to my readers in The Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, there is a growing interest in Lean (a process improvement framework, based on the Toyota Production System).
A collegue of mine is researching the use of Lean in the dutch market. He is working for a unit that helps clients improve on Operational Excellence.
He is looking for people that are working for businesses (so, preferably not implementing consultants) that have been involved in Lean, that are located in The Netherlands and that are willing to spend 2 (well, 5 is more likely) minutes to fill in an online survey.
What's in it for you:
- Receive the results (and gain more information on the use of Lean)
- A chance to win a good book on Lean (for your next Lean project ;-))

And an extra request, if you fill it in, please remark on the last survey page, that you found the page through this blog...


The original request (Dutch):
"Lean is ‘hot’. Steeds meer bedrijven en sectoren adopteren het Lean gedachtegoed in hun streven naar efficiĆ«ntie en productiviteitsverbetering. Niet alleen binnen productie en logistiek, maar bijvoorbeeld ook in de energiesector, zorg en financiĆ«le wereld worden de principes van Lean veelvuldig toegepast.

Capgemini is een onderzoek gestart om de toepassing van het Lean gedachtegoed en de doelstellingen die organisaties hiermee nastreven in kaart te brengen binnen de diverse branches en bedrijfsfuncties in Nederland.
De resultaten zullen u de mogelijkheid bieden uw positie in te schatten. Met andere woorden, het zal antwoord geven op vragen als: wordt Lean veelvuldig toegepast binnen mijn branche? Welke tools worden daarbij gebruikt en met welke doelstelling? En zou het gedachtegoed van Lean wellicht ook voor mijn bedrijf effectief kunnen zijn?

Wij vragen twee minuten van uw tijd om antwoord te geven op zes korte vragen. Ook als u nog niet eerder bekend bent met ‘Lean’ kunt u de vragen beantwoorden. Uiteraard ontvangt u na afloop van het onderzoek de resultaten. Tevens maakt u door het invullen van de vragenlijst kans op het boek ‘Lean Transformation’ van B. Henderson en J. Larco.

Open de onderstaande link om direct de vragenlijst te openen: "

Saturday, June 09, 2007

BPM is about change - and change is about people

As a consumer, I am often amazed about the inside-out thinking of companies (not the customer is focus, but the company - and the customer has to live with it, or leave.... and most time they will...). And in addition, to the many many basically terrible processes that companies have, leading to awfull customer service, mainly caused by unawareness and lack of ownership.

The basis truth is: customers come and stay if service is good. And let's define the basis to service: it's that simple (well...) chain of all the little steps-actions-thoughts-decisions and ownership that people in your business take when trying to make a customer happy. It's the people!

As a short example: I am spending 4 months now to get rid of my Internet connection (that I cannot use even at this stage). Am struggling to order new furniture, where the company forgot to send me the requested proposol ("because person X was transfered and forgot to hand over"). So today, when I went to a shop for new contactlenzes, and everything just went fine (they even had the right data on me), I was even a bit amazed (and satisfied!). These people simply cared and had their processes in order.

As BPM specialists, I think we sometimes forget this, and focus on process too much. If we magically analyse the proces, identify gaps, issues, find the causes and remove them, processes will flow again. Sure, this is part of the needed intervention, but it's not enough: in the end, it's the people, and the chain of their actions, thoughts and ownership....

Coincidences do not exist I think. Currently I am doing two projects that are forcing me to see this fact and deal with it. And to be honest - I like it. My BPM attitude and efforts are suddenly growing to something I could call, well, group therapy.

For instance - I am currently working with an insurance company, that is struggling with a key area in their change operations: how to deal with changes, linking to their processes and IT solution. The key area I focus on currently is requirements.
I have the luxury that I can interview many people, based on a structured interview template, that covers process, concepts, stakeholders, issues and possible solutions. It's a great way to see through a group, see many viewpoints and perspectives, and identify patterns, shared images of issues, but also explicit or hidden differences in point of views (and even disputes).

First of all, I started realizing that this set of interviews is already a process intervention - by asking certain questions, people started thinking about things and became aware of their own actions and the consequences it had. They started seeing the chain (or at least part of it)!
But a key realization: for many people, playing a part in a customer chain, is like the group of blind men touching the elefant... they all assume they understand, but never see the full picture.

The next step (which I find somewhat scary) is that I will feed back the findings of all interviews to the group as a total (in a workshop), checking with them the correctness of my findings (and note - correctness is not reality - it's perception of the group). Maybe the elefant becomes more visible. I will also let them prioritize as group the biggest issues, and let them brainstorm on possible solutions + prioritize. Again an intervention (and almost group therapy) to make them realize the current state of how things are going and make them understand that THEY are in the lead to create a good, outside in, process, but more important that this process can only work if they care about it....

Maybe we should not talk about BPM, but about MPATEY - "My Process Actions That Elevate YOU (the customer). Eg.... empathy for the customer :-)
Are you focused on the people? If not, then realize: blueprint thinking on process is a nice and safe way to understand and to design, but it's only part of the solution...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Collaborative and Mobile solutions from MagicMonday Amsterdam

A bit off topic, but in a way linked to new ways of interaction during business processes and knowledge work...

I attended a great event yesterday in Amsterdam: Mobile Monday (, Dutch).

Two things came up, that showed interesting innovations for businesses, in the area of B2C (or better C2B!) and G2P (Group to Person, sorry my invention :-)).

1. Backchannel (G2P)
A new concept for me, very new generation internet type. The concept is simple: a presenter is giving a speech, supported by visual material (such as a Powerpoint presentation). At the same time, a large screen shows comments by the group listening to the presenter. This could vary from questions, doubts, observations, new insights to (realtime) results of research (is this person telling the truth).
What's nice about it:
- It made the whole group feel much more involved.
- Easier and faster to interact with rest of audience (react to eachothers comments)
- It made boring parts of the presentation much more fun :-)
- The comments are kept (on a website) and can be reviewed later by presenter and participants (would be nice if there was a playback with timed backchannel, a type of voice over :-))

Where I have my doubts:
- Well, I am not a part of the new internet generation, that can MSN, listen to music, watch tv and do homework at the same time. The constant stream of comments distracted me from the speaker
- It would be nice to filter out questions to the speaker and keep them on the screen, till addressed. Now it was still a blur of all kinds of comments, which kept going...

For some pictures of the concept.... (backchannel on the right) (backchannel image)

For a list of comments during the presentation (partly dutch, partly english):

2. Mobile concept: barcode scan by mobile phone camera
There was a presenter from, who are working on a new way of C2B (Customer to Business) interaction: through barcodes.
Some example scenarios:
- You walk around in museum. Every object has a barcode close to it. Scan the barcode with the camera on your phone, and additional information will be displayed....
- You walk on the street. You see that a lamppost is broken. The lamppost contains a barcode. You scan the barcode, which automatically informs the local government to fix it
- You want to get a coffee in your company or make a copy of some paper. Coffeemachine/Copieer broke. You scan the barcode, and your mobile phone informs the vendor that repair is needed.
- You see a poster of a cool new band. Scan the barcode and your phone shows you more info and enables you to order the cd, download MP3's or order tickets for the next concert close to you...
- You are buying a trainticket. The trainticket contains a barcode. You scan it, and your phone immediatly informs you about the fastest trainroute and interesting (well for you personally) things to do in the place of destination.

This is just a short brainstorm, but I do see large potential. From a lean perspective (outside in) it's amazing how difficult it often is to fulfill your need as a "consumer" (yikes). It involves searching, going places, asking, uninterested personnel, waittime (so it takes 2 months to get this couch?) etc. Technology that we as buyers could use to quickly find our way to the right product would greatly improve our lives. Not to forget the advantage for the companies...