Executive Privilege: Get your hands dirty to get results

One of the greatest parts about becoming an executive is getting to delegate down some of the parts of the job that are boring, cumbersome, or just plain irritating. However, it pays to remember that part of being an executive is leading by example. One of the hardest parts of being a successful leader is realizing that the spotlight is always on you. Your actions and reactions will be seen and replicated at meetings, on phone calls and when it comes time to put in work. If you are always late to meetings it will bleed into the culture. Can’t put down your blackberry in meetings? It will become part of the culture. One of the hardest things to do in any organization is to bring in change, particularly if the thing you are bringing in is hard, tedious, or unfamiliar. This is the perfect time to flex your leadership skills and get your hands dirty. Sometimes, leading people through a difficult change is about more than just making sure people are doing what you are asking to – it is about leading from the front.

I never ask people to do anything I wouldn’t do and to the degree practical I like to show that I can do the doing. If you read any article published in the last 20 years about organizational transformation they will tell you that “executive buy in” is critical to success. I think too many executives read this as “I need to make sure the people below me are doing what they are supposed to do” as opposed to “I need to be out in front of this and show my team how to get this done.” There is more to this than simply showing that you are part of the team, or that you can do it to. Hopefully you became an executive based on your ability to overcome challenges just like the one facing your organization now. Who better to spot opportunities for improvement or tailoring? Maybe there is a better mousetrap that can be built. If you just pass down a prescriptive order to do something, the value of the activity may be diminished. Often the transformational activity is something totally foreign to your team hence the term “transformational.” If it is important, and usually transformational activities are, then you need to be a part of it. Usually transformations are only undertaken when the results are important. This is because according to basic organizational algebra the transformational activities are being done in lieu of other duties, so you are sacrificing the performance of some other task that had up to this point been deemed important enough to be part of your team’s regular duties. If this is the case then you owe it to the organization to lead, because otherwise you risk sacrificing that performance for nothing.

The fact is that most organizations are not able to successfully engage on transformation initiatives. As a consultant I have been involved in many engagements where we are the fourth or fifth group to tackle the same problem. Not to sell us short, but more often than not the culprit is not some small detail that the last set of consultants failed to see. The problem often stems from a lack of executive engagement or guidance. The consultants were brought in and the process was handed off to a team of consultants and in house staff with weekly reporting to the executive counting as the “buy-in.” This model often fails unless one of the in-house staff members is strong enough to be a substitute for the executive participation that should be supporting and driving the effort. I believe that if it was important enough to bring in outside consultants it is probably important enough to participate in the process of even if only enough to be seen and felt as an executive presence. As an executive your presence is the signal that the team is committed to succeeding and that failure is not an option.

When we come into these types of engagements on the heels of multiple failures one of the first things we address is the lack of involvement. The most often heard response is that the executive simply has not had time. As a consultant this is a difficult thing to address because the executive is essentially putting the engagement into play by positioning our participation requirement vs. firm time constraints. However, as a consultant in this situation you have to push for the executive engagement because otherwise the organization will be bringing someone else in on the heels of your failure. If the executive does not have enough time to be a part of the engagement then the organization probably does not have the bandwidth to succeed at the transformation program. At that point it may be useful to look at the portfolio of activities the executive is engaged in and try to explicitly identify the areas where executive leadership is required vs. where a trusted deputy can be successful. It has been my experience that many of the important steady state activities that take up the majority of an executives time are much better candidates for delegation instead of delegating the transformation activities.

Put our team to work improving your organization’s performance. Visit Millsapps, Ballinger and Associates online.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Avoiding the common pitfalls of enterprise architecture

The history of enterprise architecture as a management discipline has been marked by failure to live up to the promise it showed as a concept. The idea of an enterprise architecture and the explicit understanding of the relationships between the most critical forces, resources, and processes involved in the execution of  an organization’s business is powerful.  People can grasp on an intuitive level how powerful the reality of that concept would be if it could be put into practice and harnessed on behalf of the enterprise. Unfortunately, the conceptual enterprise architecture that enables the agile enterprise and informs executives in the midst of critical portfolio and execution decisions has given way to a morass of additional bureaucracy and expensive efforts to create enterprise models that are more often significant as records of organizational history than as blueprints for the future. The problems lie in three areas.  The first of which is a lack of clear performance objectives for the EA effort. This early effort to understand what the organization is attempting to achieve through its EA efforts is critical, to the point so that not having this in place almost certainly dooms whatever effort occurs in its absence to failure. It is simply impossible to get value from any effort so potentially broad as an EA effort without determining in advance what success will look like in order to focus the effort around areas where the EA can benefit the organization meta-model as a whole. The second major failure stems from the belief that EA is somehow all about the process for developing content; although it seems that almost 90% of the material you read regarding the discipline is related to eliciting information from the enterprise, modeling the information, or frameworks. I am a big believer in the fact that having the right information is critical to the success of the EA effort by and large, but I know from extensive experience on client sites that too much focus on methods and models leads to a low return on investment for the organization as a whole. Finally, there is far too little attention paid to helping the consumers of EA information. This last one is really simply the end product of the first two, but I have almost never had a project where I felt the funding allocated towards stakeholder communication, marketing, support and documentation was commensurate with the dollars spent to develop the content. In the following sections I will provide a few tips for refocusing your EA effort to avoid these common pitfalls or refocus efforts that have gone astray.

Lack of EA Performance Objectives

Establishing performance objectives is a good idea when it comes to executing any change initiative and EA really should be a major factor in effectively managing organizational change. With that said, EA is also often set up as a program with no defined end date and not particularly tied to any specific initiative within the organization. Where a supply chain management modernization effort may be able to easily show a return on investment and meet key performance indicators regarding cost containment or increased organizational capacity, EA efforts are often not as easily measured on the surface. However, I think that by setting forth both high level measurements that an EA program should influence like ratios of IT spending to operational spending and total cost savings, as well as more internally focused measures like percentage of compliance with EA/IT Governance or Common Services Usage the program sets itself up to be able to meaningfully advocate for itself on the basis of providing value to the organization as a whole. One of the most critical things establishing EA performance objectives does is force the team and sponsoring executives to really hone what they are hoping to gain from their EA efforts. In addition to establishing explicit performance objectives like those mentioned above it provides an opportunity to discuss and align the EA efforts with particular organizational main points like portfolio management, meta data management, or other critical organizational initiatives.

Over Emphasis on EA Content and Process

EA efforts are often said to be focused on the organization’s to-be state. Unfortunately, too many EA efforts spend so much time focusing on the to-be state of the EA effort that they never deliver value to the organization. Successful EA efforts get to business value as rapidly as possible.  That’s not to say that there is not a place for well thought out processes or that thinking about the meta-model isn’t valuable. Simply collecting a bunch of information by any means is not what I am advocating for, what I am trying to advocate against is the endless evaluation and tailoring of methodology, framework and meta model that seems to dog so many EA efforts. Perhaps it is simply in the nature of architects to sweat these details, but leadership needs to temper this desire to rigorously hone the processes and models that will be used to carry out the EA effort with a focus on addressing real business issues. I like to think of every EA effort as having two tracts.  One is the strategic tract where long term organizational value is built via the rigorous application of EA techniques and methodology to managing the enterprise, and the second is the tactical tract that applies the techniques and talents of the EA staff to deliver near term value to the enterprise. I believe that these shorter term objectives, while possibly falling outside the purview of traditional EA, build the organization’s faith in the longer term value of the effort, ensure communication with the business, and guarantee that EA always has an answer when the value question is asked.

Under Emphasis on EA Consumers 

A byproduct of the lack of performance metrics and over emphasis on EA content and process is a lack of focus on the EA consumers. So much attention is paid to the information that needs to be brought in and the process by which to bring it in that the return of this information in usable form to the content consumers is an after thought at best and often simply does not happen. The fact is that the structured models and techniques so often used to elicit information from the enterprise are often not the best mechanisms for returning that information to decision makers. For EA to have a positive impact on organizational performance it is critical that attention be paid to the consumers to this demographic before going out and harvesting the organizations information. Understanding where EA information can play a role in enhancing stakeholder decision making and working in coordination with these stakeholders to develop meaningful information collections in formats designed to support the decision making activity are critical to transitioning the organization to the type of data driven agility that is supposed to be the hallmark of the architectural organization. Working from the decision backwards can be of enormous value in these types of efforts and can help focus EA efforts on informational gaps in the enterprise that can show the value of EA as a discipline in a way that simply focusing on the macro EA effort cannot.

Put our team to work improving your organization’s performance. Visit Millsapps, Ballinger and Associates online.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

HBR on Softscaling

There is an exceptional article on the Center for Information Systems Research site at the MIT Sloan School called Softscaling: Combining Emotion, Optimization, and Data by Ritu Agarwal. The article focuses on research performed on companies in India and included more than 60 interviews with CxO level personnel with regard to their overarching approach to business. Across industries the top performers had a similar strategy termed “Softscaling” by the author. The idea that by blending capabilities along three areas (emotion, optimization, and empathetic use of data) that significant performance gains could be made. “Softscaling combines the best features of optimization (e.g., low cost and reliability via Six Sigma approaches, metrics, and rationality) and emotion (e.g., connection to the customer and firm with passion, commitment, and con- cern). The actions in optimization and emotion are linked together by an evidence-based empa- thy grounded in data analytics.” (need citation). This emotional focus is strikingly different from traditional western style corporate execution, but it has produced striking results even outside of India as evidenced by the turnaround of Jaguar by Tata Motors.

The focus on emotion in soft scaling is intended to cut across the corporate operating environment and include stakeholders across the value chain from vendors and workers through to the customers. I think the closest western management approach would be Management by Wandering but with a focus on employee engagement. The vendor engagement seems to be a bit similar to what companies like Walmart have done by pulling their vendors and partners in more closely and engaging them more directly in support of initiatives like their supply chain management, however again I think that the level of emotional engagement and the dynamic is much different than what is put forward under Softscaling. The Softscaling approach described in the article appears to be much more intimately tied to being together followed by winning together than is traditionally seen in western business culture.  

The optimization discussed under the Softscaling approach also appears to be just a slight variation on the optimization models that have become prevalent in western business including the use of tools like six sigma. The take away from the research in this case is the use of these tools to optimize business processes without underestimating the human factors that may come into play in business. The example given of empowering bank employees to forgive missed loan payments under the right circumstances works because the company has also committed itself to having personnel that that stay within communities are charged with knowing individual customers and provided with the flexibility to step in as appropriate.

Combining this optimization of business process, in combination with a focus on building an emotional connection across the stakeholders in the value chain can be even more efficient if these two things are linked to data in order to understand the effects of optimization and emotion on the business. This enables the companies to deeply understand their customers, vendors and workers unique connection to the companies products, the results of business experiments, and engage in decision making much more closely to the activities that are driving performance.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

3 Keys to Organizational Transformation

Once you have figured out where you want to go, the temptation is always to try to get there as rapidly as possible. Most people who have gone to the trouble to work through planning a to-be state don’t want to wait to get there and in their haste to reach their idealized state they fail. Sometimes they fail in such grandiose fashion that continuing to plod along under the status quo would have been by far the preferred option if they had only known that the to-be was unattainable. This happens to us in both our personal and professional lives. As individuals we attempt radical diets and exercise plans in a haste to lose 50 pounds and recapture the waistline we had in high school. As organizational leaders we attempt to optimize the entire organization in order to become market leaders or achieve our mission. I don’t believe that the culprit is the dream or idealized state as often as it is our lack of planning and patience in achieving that state. Human nature pushes us to achieve our goals as rapidly as possible and markets, bosses, and organizational metrics reward the quick. However the quick is too often the enemy of the good.
I believe that the first step in achieving your transformational objectives is to really take stock in where you are now and access your readiness for change.  Personal and organizational transformation take energy and resources.  Recognizin that these resources are finite and that you are probably already operating at near capacity is the first step.
On a personal level most people can sustain a surge effort to transform in the same fashion that you may be able to get budget for a transformation initiative for your organization, but in both cases the effort is not generally sustainable.  If the transformation doesn’t result in an optimized behavior that requires a similar level of effort, or resource, or result in a capacity to sustain the elevated resource requirement, the effort is doomed to failure. It is for this reason that I believe that planning the transformation critical.
While this may seem obvious I think that most people see this as defining the collection of activities required to get to the end state, not really critically assessing what can be accomplished based on transformational readiness. Is a 150% or 200% surge really sustainable over a 6-12 week period, over 6 months? What are the real limits and will the benefits derived make the effort worth it?
Thinking about transformation in this context helps set the stage for the first transformational key which is that transformation needs to be approached incrementally.

Incremental Transformation

Developing capability or achieving transformation goals is easier if the the end state can be achieved by following an incremental approach that allows those involved to achieve small victories, assess progress and alter the course as required to achieve the final objective. Another benefit of this incremental approach is that it also enables a shift in the end state or the timeline if the transformation effort is either negatively effecting ongoing performance or the lessons learned on the journey change the desired end state. Increments are also important because if designed correctly they should hedge against the tendency to try to swallow the entire transformation effort in a single gulp. Having short 4-6 week sprints that result in measurable progress often prevent efforts that get get derailed by the sheer size and complexity of the task being attempted. In short the incremental approach supports right sized thinking about transformation.
The next key is measuring.  Too often measures and metrics that are used are too big for the transformation effort.  This is constant with the big bang approach that is after taken to transformation in general. The idea that once you are complete you will have a 25% reduction in costs or a 10% increase in overall profitability should be organizational goals that transformation efforts are aligned to but their should be a level down in granualarity that enables the developed increments to be measured for progress. This ensures that in flight performance is occurring and if the measurements are properly developed they should enable agility in addition to providing an ability to know when success has been achieved.

Measured Transformation

Finally, the three keys are most effective if they are part of a consistent approach to improvement that is applied consistently across the organization. Transformation is a lot easier to handle if you are practiced at applying the techniques required to be successful. Nobody should be surprised if they fail to meet their transformational or improvement goals if it is something that the rarely do. The most successful people and organizations are continually working to improve their performance and to develop the skills required to carry off those transformational efforts. Making performance improvement something that is ongoing and practicing the skills required to transfer to achieve those goals makes the realization of the ideal to-be state much more likely. Like almost anything else “practice makes perfect.”

Practiced Transformation





Put our team to work improving your organization’s performance. Visit Millsapps, Ballinger and Associates online.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

3 Keys to Transformation Success

Once you have figured out where you want to the temptation is always to try to get there as rapidly as possible. Most people who have gone to the trouble to work through planning a to-be state don’t want to wait to get there and in their haste to get to their idealized state they fail. Sometimes in such grandiose fashion that continuing to plod along under the status quo would have been by far the preferred option if they had only known that the to-be was unattainable. This happens to us in both our personal and professional lives. As individuals we attempt radical diets and exercise plans in a haste to lose 50 pounds and recapture the waistline we had in high school. As organizational leaders we attempt to optimize the entire organization in order to become market leaders or achieve our mission. I don’t believe that the culprit is the dream or idealized state as often as it is our lack of planning and patience in achieving that state. Human nature pushes us to achieve our goals as rapidly as possible and markets, bosses, and organizational metrics reward the quick. However the quick is too often the enemy of the good.
I believe that the first step in achieving your transformational objectives is to really take stock in where you are now and access your readiness for change. personal and organizational transformation take energy and resources recognizes that these resources are finite and that you are probably already operating at near capacity is the first step.
On a personal level most people can sustain a surge effort to transform in the same fashion that you may be able to get budget for a transformation initiative for your organization but in both cases the effort is not generally sustainable and the if the transformation doesn’t result in an optimized behavior that requires a similar level of effort or resource or result in a capacity to sustain the elevated resource requirement the effort is doomed to failure. It is for this reason that I believe the planning the transformation is the first key step. While this may seem obvious I think that most people see this as defining the collection of activities required to get to the end state not really critically assessing what can be accomplished based on transformational readiness. Is a 150% or 200% surge really sustainable over a 6-12 week period, over 6 months? What are the real limits and will the benefits derived make the effort worth it?
Thinking about transformation in this context helps set the stage for the next key which is that transformation needs to be put forward in increments.

Incremental Transformation

Developing capability or achieving transformation goals is easier if the the end state can be achieved by following an incremental approach that allows those involved to achieve small victories, assess progress and alter the course as required to achieve the final objective. Another benefit of this incremental approach is that it also enables a shift in the end state or the timeline if the transformation effort is either negatively effecting ongoing performance or the lessons learned on the journey change the desired end state. Increments are also important because if designed correctly they should hedge against the tendency to try to swallow the entire transformation effort in a single gulp. Having short 4-6 week sprints that result in measurable progress often prevent efforts that get get derailed by the sheer size and complexity of the task being attempted. In short the incremental approach supports right sized thinking about transformation.
The next key is measuring, too often measures and metrics that are too big for the transformation effort this is constant with the big bang approach that is after taken to transformation in general. The idea that once you are complete you will have a 25% reduction in costs or a 10% increase in overall profitability should be organizational goals that transformation efforts are aligned to but their should be a level down in granualarity that enables the developed increments to be measured for progress. This ensures that in flight performance is occurring and if the measurements are properly developed they should enable agility in addition to providing an ability to know when success has been achieved.

Finally be the three keys are most effective if they are part of a consistent approach to improvement that is applied consistently across the organization. Transformation is a lot easier to handle if you are practiced at applying the techniques required to be successful. Nobody should be surprised if they fail to meet their transformational or improvement goals if it is something that the rarely do. The most successful people and organizations are continually working to improve their performance and to develop the skills required to carry off those transformational efforts. Making performance improvement something that is ongoing and practicing the skills required to transfer to achieve those goals makes the realization of the ideal to-be state much more likely. Like almost anything else “practice makes perfect.”

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Getting to Value from Business Process Modeling

Business process modeling (or mapping) and over time business process management, provide an organization a mechanism to explicitly understand the processes and in turn, activities from which the organization derives value. At MB&A we use the term unit of work to describe these circumscribed behaviors. These include concepts such as line of business, function, process, activity, and task. This grouping concept is based on the level of granularity.  For instance, a task is a lower level of granularity than an activity and an activity is lower than a process, or involvement, of a contextual characteristic such as in the case of the age-old debate between function and process. While we start from this basic conceptual understanding of how these units of work live within organizations, we are also focused on ensuring that the client derives the full value possible from the application of our services to develop and mature their business process management activities. We almost always tailor our methods to leverage the types of techniques that will be meaningful to the organization and our methodology to accommodate organizational requirements. This means that if an organization has put extensive time and effort into training its employees on BPMN, IDEF, UML, or some other specific or combination of techniques, we will leverage those in order to get the job done. With many years of experience in the field, our finding is that it is often more valuable to the client to work in the techniques they are comfortable and have been trained in, rather than attempting to train or convert them to a new way looking at business process models. Our team has worked with an incredibly broad array of these techniques and so matching resources and expertise to particular client requirements is fairly straightforward.   If there is still a knowledge gap, we are more than happy to engage in short training sessions.  This will enable the client to more fully participate in the modeling sessions as well as better utilize the results of those sessions.

In the next few paragraphs I will describe our proven approach at a high level, but here again we almost always tailor this approach in order to more precisely meet client requirements. At the outset of the client engagement, we will meet with them to better understand their existing methodologies and the techniques in use to describe the organization. We then develop a baseline understanding of the client’s state of organizational readiness as well to best understand what may work best for the client. We then tailor our high level approach to develop an explicit business process mapping plan tailored to the specific client’s particular requirements. This ensures that we are both on the same page with regard to the methodology and process to be used. It also enables the client to communicate to stakeholders how the project will be executed and facilitates any necessary internal communications. Once this plan is approved all parties should understand the processes, time frames, and value the project is intended to deliver and gauge progress by evaluating the current effort against this projection. At the highest level we approach every business process mapping opportunity by leveraging the following high level steps including identification, definition, analysis and optimization of business processes.

Repeatable Processes

In order to facilitate the maturation of a business process management capability within the client organization, we will also attempt to facilitate the adoption of a governance structure. This is in order to place critical business processes under explicit management as well as helping the organization to develop its change management. It also changes the control process to ensure that recommendations that are selected for action by the client can be managed on an ongoing basis, and that the organization is able to assimilate them in a manner that minimizes disruption and maximizes the value of the optimization effort.

Identification

Identification, or discovery, is a critical component of delivering value to the client quickly. At MB&A one of the things we pride ourselves on is having developed organizational discovery into a rapid, repeatable process that enables our teams to quickly understand and begin delivering value to the client. There is almost never an occasion where we find ourselves to be the first consulting company to ever have walked through an organization’s doors. Due to this, one of the first things we do is collect the previous consulting engagement products for the last three years, and occasionally longer if there is value in it, to the client. Meaning that they have a stable business model and there have been no organizational transformations that significantly reduce the value of the review. Our approach is to first establish the scope of the discovery process. If, for example, we are looking at developing a mechanism for an organization to better manage its business processes as part of a larger organizational transformation effort, we would begin by working with the key client side stakeholders to understand the operational scope of the business process management effort. This includes the business units that had been a part of the effort to this point. This will help us to understand who the various stakeholder communities are that may have been involved in previous consulting engagements or internal efforts so that we can identity and validate their requirements. We can then include them in the discovery processas well as be sensitive to political factors that may have come into play as a result of previous efforts. Too often we find that each consulting company has approached the client with a blank slate method that results in striking similarity in the findings and recommendations produced by various studies and prices mapping efforts. We also do extensive discovery around existing documentation that has been developed as part of internal efforts with a focus on governance bodies (charters), policies, Concept of Operations documentation, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), and other key categories of documentation that will help us to understand the organization, key activities, and process by which it delivers value.

Discovery Sources

Throughout this discovery process as the artifact intake is occurring, our team will work to classify and meta-tag the documentation in a repository in order to facilitate the definition, analysis, and optimization components of the work. Often clients find that this activity alone is of exceptional value turning up high value content that was developed as a part of other efforts, but due to staff turnover, organizational changes, or simply the passage of time, the artifact and content was lost. The precise classification and storage of these materials in a repository creates a real organizational asset that can significantly reduce the cost of future organizational transformation efforts. As part of our classification effort the team has used classification frameworks. As an example we used the “APQC Process Classification Framework” at a Fortune 100 client to ensure a common terminology to name, organize, and map their processes. It was also helpful as a tool for explaining the business in terms of horizontal processes rather than vertical functions. Alternatively, we have also developed classifications tailored specifically to an organization’s requirements in order to deliver a means for ensuring maximal value is derived from the repository as it is developed and maturing. The repository technology can be as complex as specific enterprise architecture or document oriented repositories, or as simple as a spreadsheet log and associated file structure. One of the most common situations we find is that Sharepoint will be our initial target repository due to its prevalence in private and public sector office environments. Sharepoint provides an excellent basic workspace from which to perform discovery, enable the team to rapidly assemble and share documents, enable basic meta data capabilities, and provide for the ability to leverage workflows and collaboration tools if appropriate. In one large public sector client, our team has developed a full-fledged collaboration environment from what started as basically a documentation library. The product of a discovery effort into a collaborative workspace that facilitates executive decision making, and provides access to a broad stakeholder community engaged in managing and developing, that clients’ enterprise architecture efforts are essentially needed in transitioning forward. Just as important as the discovery and tagging of these artifacts, is the validation of the documents. This is in combination with the efforts taken to elicit valid artifact components from artifacts that may have other information that is less valid contained within them. Our team works first to rapidly develop the list of artifacts that based on content type could contain valuable information. Then we work with stakeholders to validate that subset of information and catalog it accordingly in the artifact repository.

Definition

The definition effort is where all of the hard work put forward in the discovery and identification phase begins to provide rewards. Definition is all about taking the disparate views of the organization developed by various internal and external organizations, at various times and often with slightly different purposes in mind, and melding them into a single version of the truth that the client recognizes as representative of the organization as it stands today. Our team generally works within two tracks in order to accomplish these objectives.  The first is to develop an understanding of the organization via techniques which are usually visual representations of the processes, activities, etc., that will be analyzed. These can take the form of techniques including IDEF, BPMN, Process Value Chain, etc., but all carrying forward the objective of providing a structured method of eliciting organizational information in a standard format to enable communication and analysis. The second is to develop documentation of the processes and other critical information in a manner that clearly defines these elements and ensures clear communication between stakeholders. The effort should look at the targeted business process mapping outputs and provide the organization with real insight into the:
Understanding the Organization

 

It is this core information set that will drive a great deal of the real value that the organization will derive from the business process mapping activity as a whole, as the interplay of the above will help the organization begin to provide real insight and answer real questions including identifying and describing the work performed to deliver value to the client. This analysis provides the context that enables the organization to understand  work units. In order to truly understand the organization you must: 

  • Classify work units into types for management purposes, for example into core- or enabling processes. Which process components are for management, operations or supporting services?
  • Identify the external influence on the process. What is flowing into process from outside the organization?
  • Identify the business artifacts being passed from one activity to another. How does one work unit relate to another?
  • Identify all governing statements (laws, policies, standards, guidelines etc.) for each process component. What is driving the behavior of a process component?
  • Identify all enterprise resources (IT components, people and Assets) being utilized to perform the process component. What enterprise resource is involved in the execution of the process?
  • Identify all decision points within the process flow. What decisions are being made in the process?
  • Identify the life-cycle stages of a Business Artifact How does the process change the status of a business artifact?

However, in order to derive this business value, it is critical that the business process mapping accurately describes the organization.  In order to make this happen, our team will run facilitated sessions to evaluate and refine the initial definitional outputs from the identification and discovery phase. Essentially our team will work from the validated artifacts contained in our document repository to develop initial models in the techniques that have been chosen by the client.  Doing this refines the models and ensures they accurately depict the organization at a level of granularity that is relevant to the desired outcome. For example, the level of granularity required to perform the analysis required to support process automation, or perform process optimization analysis, may be different from that required to perform impact analysis with regard to a particular change initiative. However, it is critical to understand from the outset the level of granularity that will be applied to the business process portfolio that is in scope and being developed if the client intends to manage the processes library over the longer term. Our advice is always to maintain process information at the highest level that will allow the client to derive value and facilitate analysis. Deep dives with greater granularity can always be done to address specific issues.  As hard as it is to do this work, it should be explicitly disconnected from the “managed” process library at project completion.  This ensures that the organization does not include information that cannot be maintained, or worse, present information that is very detailed but incorrect. It is much better to include a pointer to the archived deep dive effort and allow a future team to determine the relevance of the detailed process mapping at the time it is required, rather than attempt to maintain the level of detail that was required to develop a complex automation project or process optimization project. Most organizations simply do not have the resources to maintain that level of detail.  The return on investment is normally quite low, and danger of having detailed but incorrect information grows considerably.

Analysis

Once the organization has arrived at an accurate depiction of itself in the appropriate techniques, the organization can begin driving value from hard work that has been put in to this point. Within an organizational business, mapping project, potential opportunities for improvement are often uncovered early in the discovery process. This is happens through the examination of organizational artifacts or in the course of interviews or workshops. These opportunities often then begin to further crystallize in the definition phase as the explicit modeling of processes and other outputs, highlighting the inefficiency of the current means of doing business. In order to gain the most value from a business process mapping our team approaches optimization analysis in a structured fashion focused on three key facets providing insight into:

  • Actors/stakeholders 
  • Business Rules
  • Inputs and Outputs
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • System Interfaces
  • Workflows
Almost completely without regard to technique the following concepts generally apply and form the basis of our structured analysis:
  1. Unit of work optimization in context: Units of work are described in terms of what flows in and what flows out. This characteristic is quite useful when determining what “value” has been created by the work unit. Secondly, the unit of work’s context, can be further elaborated upon, when the circumstances under which the unit of work is to execute, is described and associated. This is typically referred to as “governance” of a work unit. Finally, the context is completed when all resources being used in the execution of the work unit are identified and associated.
  2. Optimizing unit of work flow. The second dimension deals with sequence and decision. Flow normally refers to a collection of work unit items being performed in series or in parallel, with the necessary decision logic dictating flow path. Poor routing and opportunities for parallel processing are often the focal points of opportunities to improve sequencing and flow.
  3. Unit of Work and Business Object (Artifact) life cycle optimization. The last dimension takes a slightly different slant. Here the predominant focus is placed on the business object. The work units responsible for moving a business object form one life-cycle stage to another are often critical dimensions that remain unchanged despite organizational changes that sub-optimize the process performance over time.

The team will work with the key stakeholders in the optimization activity via a series of workshops, meetings and other collaboration mechanisms to highlight areas where opportunities for improvement may exist and capture relevant details describing these opportunities in order to enable the organization to assess and prioritize them as well to begin to formulate recommendations with regard to possible improvements. The team will then work with key stakeholders to develop a summary findings brief that provides critical insight into the improvement opportunities that have been identified within the analysis and provide recommendations for further study or alternatives analysis depending on the project scope.

Optimization

Once the initial analysis is complete, our team will begin working in concert with the key project stakeholders to begin the actual optimization process focusing on the areas for improvement highlighted in the analysis. This process often includes a detailed analysis of alternatives based on a diverse set of organizational factors including cost, risk, timetables, technologies and strategy. A critical and often overlooked factor is organizational maturity, readiness and motivation to change. No matter how well intentioned or needed a change activity may be, an organization that is unready or unwilling to change can doom even the best architected optimization effort. For these reasons our team will review the in place change management and governance structures that are relevant to the optimization effort, as a component of the optimization implementation analysis.   This provides the client with insight into the degree to which an intended optimization may face transformation hurdles based on organizational readiness. The team will also highlight dependencies where applicable in the optimization implementation analysis.  This enables stakeholders to understand where key linkages may be within the development of particular capabilities. One particular analysis tool we have used to facilitate this type of analysis is a capabilities matrix, which provides stakeholders with insight into costs, capabilities and dependencies in matrix format.  This facilitates decision making with regard to capability development to service a particular optimization implementation. All of this is done to ensure that client understands the potential impact of the optimization to the organization. It also helps appropriately prioritize capability development on behalf of optimization in a manner that meets program management requirements, organizational needs, and transformation objectives.

 

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Improving Personal Performance: What am I about?

A friend of mine relayed a few bits he took away from a talk he heard the other day that was given by Tom Brand, the former Olympic wrestling gold medalist and current head coach of the Nebraska wrestling team, about identifying what you are about as a person and achieving your goals. Two points that he made in the talk really hit home for me. I want to share them because I don’t think their applicability is limited to the realm of athletics.  They carry directly into individual performance in every aspect of your life. The first key point was that you should ask yourself is, “What am I about?”  This isn’t tremendously clear at first but what he was getting at was: What are the values, characteristics, etc. that make you different from everyone else? What is it that makes you the individual you are and not a clone of the guy in the cube next to you? This is probably pretty easy to answer on the surface, and the surface is about as far as most people take it. You might say you are all about competing to win, or personal integrity, or honoring your family, or some other unique thing. However, Mr. Brand’s point ran deeper because he followed this thought with a second one, which was that this self identification of “What you are all about” is only as valid as the things you are doing to achieve it every day. How true is this identity you have put on yourself? If you have set forth that leadership is part of your self identity – Are you leading? What are you doing every day to become a better leader? Are you spending time reading on leadership, or practicing leadership skills? Are you identifying where you’ve done well and where you have failed?  The focus on daily improvement was something that really rang true with me because I think that while we tend to experience life as a sprint, it is the marathon of daily grinds that define us.  It’s those grinds where you are pushing yourself to be a better version of you, that truly set you on the path to achieving your personal goals.  They will enable you to marry the idea of “What am I all about?” to the reality of “What am I actually about?”

Mr. Brand’s talk really resonated with me as an all out approach to getting what you want out of life. Everyday we are faced with choices from eating a piece of cake or not, to volunteering to take on a difficult assignment at the office, that will take their place in a long line of similar decisions.  When we look back at these decisions in 10, 20, or 30 years, they will provide us with real insight into who we are and what we stand for as people.  Those decisions will have each caused a small change for the better or worse.  They will carry us either a bit closer, or a bit farther, from the ideal selves that we hope to one day see staring back at us from the mirror.  Unfortunately, we too often choose things without assigning their proper value or taking into account just how important each small decision is, which would prompt us to make them with more care. I think one critical aspect in helping change this is by explicitly planning your activities; and also by regularly taking time to both review progress against the plan and the decisions you made that impacted successes and failures. Documenting your decision-making and the data points that feed into success or failure is an enormous part of understanding how to improve. If you wake up every morning and give yourself one thought as to how you are going to make yourself better and close your day with a mental review, then you will immeasurably improve your chances at achieving your desired end state. If you can work towards some sort of structured approach to documenting your progress that’s great, but the simple act of building in 5 minutes to plan forward mentally in the morning and 5 minutes to review in the evening will help you begin to make progress towards the goals you’ve set for yourself. Everyone has time for 10 minutes somewhere in their day.  Use that time to get closer to the person you want to be by finding a way to near that state every day. In the end you want to like the answer to the question, “What am I all about?”

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.