Most Process Improvement Projects Fail

Enterprises around the world spend vast amounts of time and money trying to tune their existing processes and procedures in order to make their enterprise more efficient.

In far too many instances, sadly, their efforts result in no improvement at all or, worse still, in an actual degradation of performance – and always in a huge bill.

Process Tuning Paradox

In spite of having tuned their processes and procedures over and over in the past, why is it that, enterprises need to tune them yet again?

The excuses most commonly given for this are things like, “the business world is constantly changing” or “our on-going commitment to improvement”. But these are excuses not reasons.

In most enterprises the “constantly changing business world” is a false reality created by the fact that they never get it right and constantly need to change.

Enterprises who are genuinely committed to improvement are not perpetually in a state of chaotic change, instead they get it right first time.

Can Performance Really be Reduced by Tuning?

Sadly, yes. Badly structured tuning projects cost enterprises dearly in four main ways:

The projects consume a great deal of time and (consequently) money. They consume not just time and expense for the project team carrying out the exercise but also, and more damagingly, the time of the employees involved in the processes and procedures being “improved”
Because they are fundamentally flawed in their approach they are unlikely to, and seldom ever, achieve what they were supposed to achieve.
Because they fail to deliver the promised improvements, those people carrying out the operations in question, become disillusioned and de-motivated, resulting in a slump in performance.
In order to avoid the failures of all past tuning exercises, management or IT suggest purchasing some “magic” (and very expensive) piece of software that will, without anyone having to know anything about business modelling, completely model and document all processes in the business from end-to-end. Honest, the salesman said so!

The costs of all of the above now has to be recouped by an enterprise that may be performing less effectively than it was before the project started – this proves to be an impossible task.

Then, to make up for this failure, the enterprise will begin the same thing all over again!

Does this sound like insanity? It should do – it is!

You Cannot Tune Wrong to Right!

There is an old programming adage that says, “Before you spend time making sure that the code is right, make sure that it is the right code!”

Quite simply, this means that if the code that you have written is doing the wrong thing, then tuning it to make it more efficient will never make it do the right thing. It will however, do the wrong thing more quickly.

This is also true for business processes and procedures. If they are the wrong processes and procedures, then tuning them will never make them right. It will simply change them from what they are to something else.

So what is the solution?

Is there a clear definition within the enterprise of WHAT it OUGHT to be doing? Without this definition, tuning is a random and pointless act. Does the enterprise have a Function Model?

Senior management needs to define exactly WHAT it is that the enterprise OUGHT to be doing and from this create a Function Model for the enterprise.

The Function Model is the most powerful business model there is and is the basis of all other business models, whether they are activity based or data based.

Without a Function Model defining WHAT the business OUGHT to be doing, it will never be possible to tune processes or procedures effectively. It will also never be possible to build any effective databases – but that is a discussion for another day.

It is only when you have this definition of WHAT the business OUGHT to be doing that you can start building:

Processes (the order in which the WHAT needs to be done)
Procedures (HOW the Processes need to be carried out)

Logic Chasm

A common misunderstanding that plagues the business modelling community is the belief that you can derive exactly WHAT it is that the business OUGHT to be doing by analysing existing processes and procedures.

This is so very, very wrong!

This is no more possible than looking at a piece of computer code and trying to determine what it is that it ought to be doing.

John J Owens – John is an inspirational business entrepreneur with a unique talent for seeing the simplicity and elegance underlying any enterprise – even if it is hidden …!&id=4781514
Business process modeling