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Thank god, it’s a crises

“There is a curse. They say: May you live in interesting times”

Terry Pratchett

Well, let’s not go so far as to regard the current time as the result of a curse, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Let me start by mentioning two statements which caught my eye these past days. On friday Fritz Henderson, CEO at General Motors, announced after the end of the bankruptcy situation of GM that “business as usual is over”. Yesterday, a Lufthansa board member stated that the current economic climate was not to blame for Lufthansa’s diminished revenue and had only brought to light problems which had been hidden and ignored for a long time. “We must think about changing our business model” is what he announced.

I find these statements remarkable as they indicate that radical changes to strategy (what we want) and processes-think (how we want to accomplish it) might in the making.Lufthansa

The interesting thing about the Lufthansa case will not only be how quickly they can change their processes and the supporting IT infrastructure to mirror the strategic intent. Having been involved with Lufthansa as process advisor on several occasions over the years, I know that the level of process awareness in the company is comparatively high. They will certainly know very quickly which processes to change, which to retire and which to design from scratch. Coupled with their usual comprehensive training methods I’m sure that the process response time (the time in which processes can be aligned to changing business models, something we wrote a short article about on our german language blog some months back) will be exceptional. But for all the effort put into this change programme, the fact remains that Lufthansa missed early indications that their current business processes were lacking something. To think that Lufthansa’s business model has been wrong, that the company followed the wrong strategy and that a new business model would right those wrongs is as easy as it is deceptive. Their business model was not wrong, it was good for the timeframe it was used in and Lufthansa fared better with it than other airlines. But in changing markets companies have to change too … and with them their business model. So the failure – if you can call it that – was not  employing the wrong business model, it was neglecting to monitor and manage the processes. The deceptive quality of a new business model I alluded to is that implementing a new, up-to-date, top class, competitive customer-oriented (you get the idea) business model including process and IT changes will not provide a sufficient insurance against the failure to detect small but growing flaws in the processes.

It’ll be no surprise to regular readers of our blogs and community postings that a change of mindset is what we think is required. With all the expert process knowledge in place, with the abundance of tools and training facilities available and the very competent and dedicated employees (they truly are), if you don’t acknowledge the need to constantly care and nurse something you’ve designed with great effort, the same mistakes will come up again and again. And who can say whether next time around Lufthansa will have the benefit of a global economic crises to help identify operational problems.

General Motors

As for GM, declaring “the end of business as usual”, this is probably the best indication possible that while they may not yet have found their way back to the light, they are at least acknowledging that they are prepared to change their thinking. As I indicated in an earlier posting and – Dick Lee referred to this as well on his Customer Think blog – all was not bad at GM – and how it have been, given the decades that GM has been around. But as with Lufthansa, setting up the right and efficient processes is only one side of the coin… keeping them tuned to requirements and market demands is the other side. And for that, different and new skills are as essential to the processes as they are to how processes are viewed and used.

Come to think of it, our world of processes is not that far removed from the discworld, so thank you Terry, and I’ll be sure to use the fifth rider of the apocalypse in some future posting.

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