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Processness?

I admit to having cynical tendencies, brought on by too much exposure to the funny world of business processes and the people involved. In random order and at irregular intervals … well, see for yourselves:

No 1: Pushing for the long-term strategy

The best excuse not to manage processes?
“We first want to improve process performance, then we’ll deal with the management issue”
For how long have worked on your processes?
“Ten years”

No 2: Intense product evaluation

A client wanted to look at a new workflow management system…so he ordered 1 user licence.
(You can’t even play process ping-pong with a single user licence, so where’s the sense in that? What finally made me slide off my chair and onto the floor was that his ‘product evaluation’ was so successful that he bought 500 user licences)

No 3: On delegating responsibility

Delegation of responsibility leads to anonymity of responsibility.

No 4: On process managers

Good process management should not be left in the hands of our current process managers – they are not qualified. (Former CPO at leading european telco)

No 5: Pink Floyd as process gurus?

Curiously “Inside Out” was a book by Pink Floyds drummer Nick Mason about the history of the band. Would you belive the band were briefly called Sigma Six before settling on Pink Floyd. Perhaps it’s all their fault!
(Alan Drewett on LinkedIn)

No 6: Going green?

“CRM practitioners are hunters, while good process people are farmers ”
(Nic Harvard on LinkedIn)

No 7: Crash, bang, boom – when processes collide

This is what happens when you optimize processes regardless of consequences (taken from the BBC website):
“There has been traffic chaos in two Paris suburbs after their mayors declared the same busy road one-way, but in opposite directions.” Read here for more, otherwise you’d believe I invented the story.

No 8: Music for BPM lovers

Here is the ultimate collection of songs that every process manager worth his salt will enjoy. This disc is the perfect gift for anyone wanting to wallow in his process sorrows or needing some motivation for the next year. It comes complete with a packet of tissues (reusable, after all, green processes will be a top priority for 2010) for your tears and a bottle of champagne to celebrate that first process improvement project in 2010 that will actually deliver to expectations.

BPM_Greatest_Hits

Scratching the surface – Saga
Money – Pink Floyd
Theme in search of a movie – Eddie Harris
Couldn’t get it right – Climax Blues Band
Magna Of Illusion – Blue Oyster Cult
Rise – Herb Albert
Symphony No.8 (aka Unfinished) – Franz Schubert
Crawling from the wreckage – Rockpile
Waiting for an alibi – Thin Lizzy
Great Expectations – Miles Davis
Them Kinda Monkeys Can’t Swing – Slade
Stop Breaking Down – UFO
How far Jerusalem – Magnum
Can I Have My Money Back? – Gerry Rafferty

No 9: Mind the gap

It must be Friday.

I just had this vision of sitting opposite a process manager on the tube when the following announcement comes on:

“Would the man in the black suit and the red tie please stop trying to look in an intelligent manner at the latest process model? You’re fooling no one but yourself.”

Picture this in your head complete with voiceover care of Emma Clarke (she of the ‘mind the gap’ fame)

No 10: The out-of-office road sign

(Taken from the BBC website)

A process that works but fails utterly? Another perfect but harmless example:

image

Being myself totally unfamiliar with the welsh language, I can well understand the need to use a translation service to have the right text on the bilingual roadsigns. The process is simple:
a) send original text to translation service (No entry …)
b) receive translation (Nid wyf …)
c) print translation
d) put up sign
Easy.

Unfortunately step b) didn’t actually provide the translation intended but was a welsh auto-respond message saying: “I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.” So that’s what got printed on the road sign.

No 11: Find your next process manager at the world cup

(This is an extract from a short after-dinner speech I gave following a process management conference. As I had an international audience which seemed both process and football minded, I couldn’t resist the temptation… . Please take my comments about the french team as an expression of my acute disappointment – and they wouldn’t make good process managers after all.)

[…] Although I do remember that I spoke to him on the phone last week and mentioned in passing that I had been having some wild thoughts and ideas these past few weeks about processes and dinosaurs, the Mona Lisa – remember her? – and about football.

I believe the reason I mentioned this to him was because I was still suffering from shock. A shock I still have not fully recovered from. But as I find myself among process-minded people tonight I am tempted to draw on two valuable and time-tested process management strategies:

a) Blame someone else

b) Share my suffering with anyone willing or forced to listen

Being an experienced process guy I will in addition attempt the impossible and integrate the two strategies. There you have it, I’ve already started speaking about the french football team: blame someone – in fact anyone – in front of a worldwide audience for failing to do your job. I seriously believe that most of the people on the french team – and let’s not limit ourselves to the players but also include staff and managers – will one day have a great future in process management. They seem immensly qualified.

Maybe I should talk to Norbert about some of the players. I do have a couple of companies in mind to which they would be perfectly suited.

Speaking of Norbert reminds me. I was going to tell you about the shock I had. It’s all his fault (see, I’ve already accomplished strategy A, ‘Blame someone else’)

What happened was that I was watching the first couple of games of the World Cup and was struck by the seemingly stupid mistakes the goalkeepers were making. Maybe you remember, in the third game, I think it was South Korea against Greece, the goalkeeper was slowly attempting to stretch his hands out to the ball and while he was still doing that, the ball was already in the net. Next game, Argentina vs Nigeria, the same thing happened again. Watching the interviews afterwards, the two goalkeepers claimed that it wasn’t their fault at all but that the ball was wobbling in the air and impossible to catch.

Hmm, I thought, cheap excuse … probably preparing for a position as junior process manager at a mid-sized family-run manufacturing business.

Then I saw Oliver Kahn – you know, THE german goalkeeping legend – on TV in a studio in Johannesburg. He said he had spent the morning on a local golf course and had thought that the ball flew further than it usually did in Germany. Now, goalkeepers are not really qualified to speak about balls flying AWAY from them, but still – it got me thinking. Maybe something really was wrong with the ball.

By the way, Oliver Kahn would not make a good process manager as his instincts always tell him to hold on to the ball instead of supporting the flow.

Now, it may have escaped your attention (but not mine, thanks to the Process TestLab), but all of the teams which had complained about the ball had two things in common:

a) They had not previously used that particular ball in their national leagues,

b) They all arrived very late in South Africa.

VERY curious. I thought. A coincidence?

I mentioned my observations to Norbert. You will remember, he’s the serious guy, our diplomat, always trying to stick to the point – in other words, he’s a proper engineer. And although we share the same mindset, it’s always good fun to annoy him with unconventional thoughts and examples. Believe me, he has to spend a lot of his time trying to defuse my more extreme and unusual ideas.

So you can imagine the shock I got, when – the very next day – he presented a paper on why some of the goalkeepers couldn’t catch the the ball and some could and why Oliver Kahn was right in thinking that his golfball flew further in South Africa.

Had I really achieved the impossible and infected Norbert with my wild thoughts? Practically unheard of. And he took things even further: He published his findings.

Now, I know that you’re dying to hear the explanation and I think it’s just as surprising as it is elegant – just like the qualities I look for in processes.

First of all: It is not the ball itself. In fact, the goalkeepers in question would have experienced the same difficulties with any other ball as well. And neither were their mistakes down to ‘bad’ goalkeeping as I had previously believed.

The solution lies in the different athmospheric pressure in South Africa. I am not going to bore you with the calculations and formulas, they wouldn’t interest you, unless you’re an engineer, in which case I would urge you to read our blog – or ask Norbert, he really is a nice guy to talk to.

In a nutshell, Norbert used the standard barometric formula to calculate that the athmospheric pressure in Johannesburg is only 81% of the pressure in Berlin.

He then calculated that the density of air in Johannesburg was likewise only 81% of that in Berlin. In case you’re really interested, there’s a thing called ‘Ideal Gas Law’ to calculate that sort of thing.

He then included these two numbers in the formula used in the aviation industry to describe the link between horizontal speed, engine power and density of air. And the result was that compared to Berlin, a ball kicked in Johannesburg using the same force, would fly faster by 7 per cent.

I am certain that there are a couple of lessons here for us process people to learn:

a) If the teams had trained earlier under real-life conditions, they would have noticed the difference and focussed on improving their reactions (Remember what I said about business readiness?)

b) The second lesson is that its always dangerous to ignore the possibility of outside – and in this case inescapeable – influences.

c) Thirdly, fast-forward 20 years and imagine what the kids will read in the history books: ‘They lost because the balls flew too fast’. This impression has to be avoided at all cost. It sounds too much like the stresstests the american banking industry uses to evaluate their credit risks. (The most extreme test was based on a 5% default rate, when in reality we came to see 30%)

I am sure that we could all find many more things we could learn from the World Cup, but these are the lessons I wanted to share with you this evening. Of course, I’ve forgotten the most important lesson: Don’t be a french football administrator.

I do have to ask you to keep this information confidential. I know some very gullible people who would conclude that if a ball flies 7 per cent faster in South Africa, then their processes would also be 7 per cent faster. They would be wrong, of course.

Thank you and you’ll be happy to hear that normal service will now resume!

No 12: Testing the new process design

Regular readers will be aware that process quality is an issue of importance with us. The unrelentness investigative journalism of the Processness column has finally uncovered the inner workings of the management board tasked with process testing:

Schreibtischtest

(Sleeper image care of http://www.jeetesh.net/)

To be continued at times of madness