Process re-engineeringis back. Hammer and Champy's book Re-Engineering the Corporationdefined it in 1993--(then) a new movement to improve corporate efficiency through re-designing processes in order to optimize cost and time with the goal of improving the “customer’s experience.” All through the 1990’s corporations did this with great success. We applied it to, among other things, reducing new product development cycle time. But when prosperity returned, so did the bad practices, and re-engineering became passé.
Driven by corporations trying to do more with less, BPM is back. If you can’t grow, the only way to maintain and improve margins are to reduce costs. Like Hammer and Champy, we are doing it from a customer’s perspective. We believe that if you focus on the customer when improving process efficiency, you will by default save time and money. These are the byproducts of a customer efficient process. Lets look at our process, at a high level.
As-is data is gathered. There are a variety of ways this is done. Most common form is to develop a process map, defining each step in the current process. Ideally, we do this starting from the customer and working all the way back to the source or start of the process. It is important to look outside of the current system’s system.
The stakeholder team comes together in an Assessment Workshop. A key success factor in redesign is to delimit the boundaries of the problem. This means defining the problem statement, specific goal, and measurable objectives.
The Structure Workshop involves the development of a decision model where the objectives are prioritized, so we know what will drive possible solution alternatives. We use a form of de Bono’s Challenge Process to identify the current thinking about the problem, including assumptions and boundary conditions of the problem. This will provide information later to make “challenges” to the process to find redesign breakthrough opportunities. Finally, during this workshop we redesign the process using group mapping process techniques and lots of paper and yellow stickys!
Next we converge with the stakeholder group to optimize the process in terms of cycle-time, cost, and resources, based on defined targets specified in the problem statement. This iterative and dynamic simulation process generates many opportunities to optimize; from actions to eliminate or change to more effective organizational structures. Challenges to current thinking provide more insights into the problem. The surviving solution alternatives are scored against the weighted objectives in order to derive a prioritized list of alternatives. These are the solutions that will give us the biggest bang for the buck.
Planning...The final short list of improvement projects/actions are subjected to a potential problem analysis (PPA) to determine causes and preventive actions. This may also cause the team to revisit the decision model, as this could affect priorities when risks are factored in. Recommendations are consolidated and a specific deployment plan is developed.
The hardest part of process redesign is not redefining it, but rather trying to implement it. Implementation means changing behavior and culture, not just systems. Most of these efforts fail at this stage, they end up generating a lot of wasted time, presentation artifacts, and expectations--only to find themselves on the shelf when people try to actually apply the changes in real life. Active tracking is essential to make these redesigned process work. It’s really all about accountability and ownership--and of course the degree of seriousness at the top. How bad is the pain and how bad is a solution needed? These tend to drive success or failure of redesign efforts.