That's something that Angelo Baratta, who spent more than thirty years leading more than a hundred projects for more than fifty organizations, discovered the hard way. While most of these projects succeeded, success rates were never as high as they should have been. This, he determined, was the direct result of the design of the business processes.
By mastering process design, organizations can achieve much higher success rates, and all stakeholders can benefit. With this guidebook, you'll learn how to improve performance by employing the Relational Process Model - a systematic approach to designing a business processes.
- the power of linking execution to strategy;
- various strategies to make value visible;
- how to measure and promote excellence;
- ways to promote meaningful change;
- many other methods to improve business operations.
It is essential to improve the design of business processes because organizations don't just deliver services - they are also where people spend a good portion of their lives. Connect strategy, processes, projects, and performance, and equip yourself with the tools you need to improve your organization with More Perfect by Design.
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About the Author
More Perfect by DesignThe Science of Designing More Perfect Business Processes
By Angelo Baratta
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Angelo Baratta
All right reserved.
Chapter OneProgress Management versus Change Management
Every man takes the limits of his field of vision for the limits of the world. Arthur Schopenhauer
Change management is a structured approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state. In other words, change management is often about getting other people to do what you want them to do.
Progress management, on the other hand, is about figuring out what needs to be changed in order to make progress for everybody. Progress management comes before change management and it makes change management as easy as it can be, but no easier. The Relational Process Model is a framework that supports progress management.
Quite often we invest time, money, and energy in getting people to change, but when all is said and done, little or no progress is made. Change all too often results in little, negative, or no progress. Although progress requires change, most changes do not result in permanent sustained progress.
At any given point in time there is at least one constraint that limits an organization's performance relative to its goal. Finding that constraint and dealing with it is a key management activity and is the heart of progress management.
Consider a couple of statistics:
1. More than 90% of all improvement initiatives fail outright or aren't sustained beyond a few years. 100% of those that failed initially believed they would be part of the 10% who succeeded. So it seems that we can't effectively predict success. 2. More than 50% of all software projects fail to deliver expected business benefits. 80% of the issues stem from poor or wrong requirements. So it seems that we can't effectively state what is needed.
Organizations are constantly plagued with problems. But do we see problems as a problem? Some people, myself included, make a living solving other people's problems and so, perhaps, we might come to the conclusion that having a steady stream of problems is a good thing. But solving problems requires resources. And while the problem exists, we are leaking value. Therefore, we are paying a great price to live with and solve these problems. In today's highly competitive global environment where labour rates are always lower somewhere else, we can no longer afford to absorb the high cost of "problem" waste.
Why does it seem that organizations always have an unlimited supply of problems that need to be solved? Why is it that despite the fact that we have solved so many, we still have so many more? And why do they seem to get more complex?
If you have children, or know someone who has, then you've probably visited this popular pizza and games joint that has a mouse as its mascot. They have a game referred to as "Whack the Mole." The rules of the game are simple. You get a padded hammer, which you use to whack. There are a number of holes out of which a mole will pop. But you don't know which hole it will pop out of. As soon as a mole pops up, you whack it. If you whack it hard enough, it will go back into its hole, but then another will pop up from a different hole. The object of the game is to whack as many of those hole diggin' varmints as you can in the time allotted.
Does your organization sound even a bit like this? Solving business problems is similar. You get credit for solving a business problem (whacking a mole). The more problems you solve, the more credit you get. If, when solving one problem, a mole pops up somewhere else, then that becomes someone else's problem. It is only your problem if it pops back up in your area. And therein lies the problem. All we need to do to be personally successful is to stop at the first solution that does not cause the mole to pop up in our area, during our watch. Let's repeat that so we understand. If a result of whacking the mole is that it shows up in someone else's territory, then from a personal perspective, we have solved the problem. Also, if it pops back up in our territory, but at some future time so that it appears unrelated to our whack, then we are still seen as having solved the problem.
But how does it look from the perspective of the organization? If a problem solved in one area causes another one to pop up in a different area, then is that of any benefit to the organization? Of course it isn't, because the organization is affected by all of them, no matter where they pop up. So we could conclude that people may have become quite good at solving problems, while organizations have not. That's because people are solving their functional problems, not enterprise problems.
The number of functional problems solved far exceeds the number of enterprise problems solved.
Let's explore an alternative definition of a problem within the context of an organization.
A problem is an undesirable side effect caused by the current solution.
For every problem there is a more perfect solution. No implemented solution is perfect. As such, every solution will have side effects. Anyone who has ever been on a medical drug, or undergone a medical treatment, or seen an ad for one, understands the concept of side effects. Some will be benign and have little impact. But some side effects can be worse than the cure, as far as the organization is concerned. We seem to be in an endless cycle of problem solving with no end in sight. Many problems have accumulated as a result of previous solutions. Organizations are investing resources in training people to become better problem solvers. But we don't need better problem solvers. We need more perfect solutions.
Instead of solving a problem, create a more perfect solution.
Problem solving is a highly focused activity aimed at eliminating something specific. As long as the undesired effect is eliminated and nothing obvious is created during the time when we are looking for the side effect, then the problem is solved. We have had thousands of years to improve our problem solving abilities. And we have gotten better. But continued improvement will not achieve better results because the root cause of the problems is the problem solving paradigm itself.
The biggest source of problems is the current solution.
The problem solving paradigm has its roots in functional (local) thinking. This book presents a framework for specifying business solutions in the form of a business blueprint. The process blueprint is a description of the full solution. The idea of a blueprint is not new. Wherever a blueprint is applied, we can see constant forward progress. Virtually all reliable products and services are based on having a current blueprint that describes in detail the best known way to produce that product or service today. A blueprint allows us to retain all the desirable aspects of the current solution at any time. Without a blueprint, the solutions end up going around in circles, reintroducing problems that had been previously solved. So what is the alternative paradigm to functional problem solving?
A More Perfect Solution
The objective of this alternative approach is to discover more perfect solutions. And what is a more perfect solution? It is a solution that has the following properties:
1. It is better than the current solution for at least one aspect. 2. It is as good as the current solution for all remaining aspects. 3. It is inferior to the current solution for none of the aspects.
The context for a more perfect solution is always broader than the context for just solving the problem. But you might be thinking "that's all well and good, but I still have functional problems to solve." And that's true. We must still solve the functional problems. However, when a functional problem is solved somewhere else, we don't want any problem to pop up in our area as a result. Therefore, we must ensure that whenever we solve one of our functional problems, there is no problem created anywhere else. When a functional problem is solved in one area, and when solving that problem creates no new problems anywhere else, in the present or in the future, then we have achieved a more perfect solution, one with higher performance, less risk, and fewer problems. That's the goal.
In order to reduce the volume and complexity of problems, we should seek to discover a more perfect solution.
In order to discover a more perfect solution, we need two sets of constraints: those relating to the problem, and those relating to the higher context of which the problem is a part. The solutions that are more easily and more quickly found are those that solve the problem while creating undesirable effects elsewhere. In order to reduce the number and complexity of problems in an organization, we need to identify and eliminate these zero sum solutions. That means that we have to have a way to identify or measure any performance decreases or risk increases, external to our focus, that result from any proposed solutions. If we can achieve that, then we can be assured that every time we solve a problem we are also moving towards a more perfect solution. But in order to do that, we must know what the perfect solution is.
We need to solve the functional problem AND move towards a more perfect solution.
We are faced with ever increasing complexity, of which there are two kinds. There is the core complexity, which reflects the nature of the problem. The degree of core complexity is dependent on the problem to be solved. Then there is the solution complexity, which is of our own making. When we try to solve a problem we have to deal with the product of the two. I say product instead of sum because combining complexities has an exponential effect on difficulty. Unfortunately, we are not experiencing an exponential increase in our raw intellectual capacity. But we have something not available to any other creature on the planet—our ability to design tools that help us to deal with situations that are outside the human capacity. We can design physical and mental tools that can increase our capability. Most of the current technology was developed to increase our physical capacity to produce more volume. What we need now is to focus on producing more value.
We want to make value and complexity more visible so that we can produce more of one and less of the other using current capacity. In the physical world, we have taken the approach of using tools that extend our physical power. If you want to lift something that is twice as heavy, you need twice the power. But if you want to solve something twice as difficult, you need more like four times the mental capacity. I don't know for sure if complexity increases as the square of the difficulty, or by an order of magnitude (10X). I only know that it is not linear. And, therefore, it is more difficult, perhaps impossible, to devise tools that would extend our mental capacities exponentially. But we can achieve the same effect by taking the opposite approach. Instead of trying to invent technology to increase our mental capacity, what if we devised ways to reduce the complexity of the problem by breaking a problem into more but simpler problems?
Our framework is about creating a business blueprint that can reduce the complexity of the work that goes on in the organization.
The volume and speed of changes far exceeds the amount of progress. Complexity is holding us back.
The past 100 years have been devoted to designing and building tools that extend our physical capabilities. We have built machine counterparts to replace our muscle power. And these have allowed us to build things that could not have been built otherwise. But we seem to have reached the limit with these "tech" muscle extensions. Unfortunately, in the process, we have created greater complexity around us. So now we are in peril of regressing—not because we can't build better machines, but because we don't seem to be able to solve one problem without replacing it with another, more difficult one.
Let's explore our ability to solve problems with this number sequence puzzle. Please spend at least five minutes on this puzzle before proceeding to the answer.
The challenge is to figure out the pattern behind the sequence and to use it to determine the next number in the sequence. The sequence is:
1, 1, 2, 2, 4, 4, 5, 7, 7, 11 ...
As a hint, you can try adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing.
OK, go ahead and give it your best shot.
Have you spent at least five minutes?
No! Then go back and give it another shot.
Once you've devoted an honest five minutes, you may continue.
* * *
* * *
* * *
OK, did you figure it out? If you did, then congratulations! I don't know anyone who has figured it out. But let's not go to the answer yet. Perhaps you are truly motivated to solve this problem. So let's do a couple of really easy ones to build our confidence before we try again.
Alright, let's try this simpler sequence: 1, 2, 4, 7, 11 ...
Write down the pattern. Then figure out the next number in the sequence. This one should take you only a few minutes. When you're done, we'll go to the next one.
* * *
* * *
OK, let's do one more before returning to the more challenging problem.
Here is the sequence: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 ...
Are you ready for the answers?
. . . . .
Alright, let's look at the answers to the two simple sequences.
First sequence: 1, 2, 4, 7, 11 ... 16. The pattern is: [+1, +2, +3, +4, +5 .... ]
Second sequence: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 ... 8. The pattern is [+1, +2, +1, +2, +1 ...].
If you gave this one an honest try, you probably had little difficulty, unless you happen to be math challenged. Don't worry, many of us are.
Now that you're all limbered up, maybe you want to try the original sequence again. Let's repeat it here:
1, 1, 2, 2, 4, 4, 5, 7, 7, 11
Still stumped? Did you notice anything familiar about this string? Still can't see it. Let's give you a little help. Let's reframe the string two different ways so we can see the pattern better.
How about now? It should be much clearer. What we have are two simple sequences mixed together. What we have are two otherwise simple problems, which can be solved in a matter of minutes. But when we combine them, we get an exponential increase in complexity and difficulty. When we combine the two, they effectively hide each other's pattern so that we can't see them. And until we can see that we have two different problems, neither is likely to be solved.
You might be asking, "What does this have to do with business?" Well, let me tell you. Many times when we think we are solving one problem, we are really trying to solve two or three or more problems simultaneously. This increases the complexity and often puts the issue beyond our ability to understand, let alone solve.
In the functional silo paradigm we often get the opposite problem as well—that of a partial problem. Imagine that instead of the following sequence
1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10
we got 1, 4, 7, 10. In other words, we got a sequence with missing elements. Again, what is a simple problem can become unsolvable, or we can end up solving the wrong problem. In this example, the problem is solvable, but the answer is incorrect relative to the original sequence (+3, +3, +3 ...).
So we have the following possibilities:
1. Combining simple problems can yield problems where it is beyond our ability to produce effective solutions. 2. Getting only a partial problem can either provide a problem that is difficult to solve, or one that is easy to solve, but gives the wrong solution with respect to the higher context. (Continues...)
Excerpted from More Perfect by Design by Angelo Baratta Copyright © 2010 by Angelo Baratta. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Part I: The Foundation....................1
1. Progress Management versus Change Management....................3
2. To Learn—Essential Capability for Progress....................21
3. The Organization—A Socio-Technical-Economic Mechanism....................35
Part II: A Framework for Understanding....................47
4. Deploying Strategic Intent across Functional Interests....................49
5. The Valueflow—Making Value Visible (1st NF)....................61
6. The Chart of Accounts—Measuring Excellence....................95
7. Propagating Performance—A Case Study....................121
Part III: The Relational Process Model....................141
8. The Three-Tier Perspective (2nd NF)....................143
9. The Three-Stream Perspective (3rd NF)....................161
10. The Component Perspective (4th NF)....................189
Part IV: Application....................213
11. The Master Valueflow Map....................215
12. Model Maturity and Normalization....................237
13. The Office For Strategy Achievement....................263
14. The Myth of Universal Solutions....................281
Glossary of Terms....................291