Harvard Business Review has process all wrong

August 20, 2009

Today Mitch Gooze from Customer Manufacturing Group disagrees with a recent article in HBR.  You can find Mitch’s complete white paper in our whitepaper section of www.processgenie.com .  Enjoy!

What is a process? One definition is “a set of activities that turn inputs into outputs.” What makes a good process? We claim that would be a process that does what it is supposed to do when it is supposed to do it …reliably. What makes a great process? One that is effective and optimally efficient. And are there some business functions that are not amenable to process management?  We think not.

Recently The Harvard Business Review published an article that suggested that some activities are art and not amenable to process management. In fact, process management would make such activities function badly. In considering this article, it dawned on us that this thinking was at the root cause of many people’s misunderstanding of what a “process” really is, and
what process management really means.

People often consider that all processes need to be rigid. That is not true
and would result in many bad processes. The authors of the aforementioned Harvard Business Review article, despite their Ph.D.s fall into that trap, and further believe that the solution is to abandon process thinking for these “artistic” activities. We think they are misguided. Our thinking on this subject is more completely described in the white paper you can download free at www.processgenie.com

Why do meetings with IT bore me?

August 4, 2009

So I once again had to sit through a meeting with IT where we discussed our goals and objectives for our next cycle.   Again I got the creeping feeling I was talking at cross purposes with my IT counterparts.

Legacy modernization, SAP upgrades, master data management initiatives, initiatives around continuous process re-engineering…etc.  Sure I know what those are and I know why we do them.  I know they are the building blocks of our foundation for our future agile organization…we’ve been building that foundation for a long, long time. 

What bothers me is I see a basic flaw in our IT departments.  It seems to me, in terms of business competitiveness, IT has gone from an enabler to a driver.   Clearly, my vision for my department, division or company no longer just assisted by IT…it needs to be driven by IT through technology. 

But it seems my IT department is busy wrapping themselves in long term infrastructure architectural design or continuous maintenance of our existing systems. 

Where is my IT counterpart who wants to look at the goals and visions I have for the business and show how my vision can be instantiated through technology?  I guess the point here is while IT has become strategic to our organization our IT departments skill sets, functions and accountability are still mired in a departmental blueprint from the late 80’s.

No wonder the guys in IT are nervous about their jobs.  The current make up of their department is ripe for outsourcing on the one end and having strategy consultants usurp their value on the other.   And while neither of those avenues makes long term sense for the strength of our business…they make short term sense for me to show some cost cutting wins, avoid going out on a strategic limb on my own and a way for me to earn this years  MBO’s.

It would seem to me,  IT department who strategically outsources redundant or low value tasks but keeps a core competency around both strategic business innovation and technology to enable company specific innovation, while keeping in lock step with my teams and my goals…would strengthen our organization, increase innovation and save me from the excruciatingly boring hour I waste twice a month in my IT meetings.


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