Potential for Continous Process Improvement


    How many times have you dealt with a company that frustrated you by saying " Oh. No. Our Department does not handle that. You will have to talk to Accounting".

    The slightly more friendlier companies will tell you "Oh. You want to cancel your credit card? Let me transfer you to another number". And you sit there, drumming your fingers impatiently. Someone comes on the phone and starts "Yes. What I can do for you?".

    Your heart sinks. You realize that you will have to start all over again with your story.

    And you are wondering what kind of continuous process improvement you can do in your company?

    Just talk to your customers and they will tell you their frustrations dealing with you. Every one of those processes may be not just ripe for Process Improvement but Radical Process Redesign!

    In the mid-50’s GM and GE pioneered many of the Functional Management "Innovations" (at least at that time) streamlined functions within a company to provide silos like R&D, Product Management, Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing, Finance, Warehousing and Shipping, etc. Then followed hordes of ERP systems that automated many of these silos.

    Fast forward to the 21st Century and you give two hoots about which department is responsible for making sure that the Hard Disk drive you ordered in your PC is 80GB and not the 60GB one that is advertised in the paper. All you care about is getting your PC the way you ordered it. For all you know the company assembling your PC is an outsourced manufacturer!

    Unfortunately many of these business processes were designed for functional silos and software that automated them. Now we have glue software like Enterprise Application Integration (EAI), Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) that cobble together Business Processes out of these monolithic software artifacts, sometimes from many different companies. With third-party pack-and-ship companies, we are talking about cobbling together systems from multiple companies. It’s a miracle many of these work at all!

    This is what we are faced with today when it comes to Process Improvement. Process Improvement at best in these cases will be like minor improvements within the frameworks dictated by artifacts of the last century.

    21st Century processes may need to deal with a customer seamlessly with minimal hassle. Time to rethink the 20th Century notions of Functional Silos within companies. 21st Century companies should deal only with processes, not departments or functions.

    Seems like a lot of potential for radical Process Redesign and Innovation to me! We have invested way too much on our existing systems, procedures and people, you say? You may not have a choice. If a competitor comes up with a quicker, better, cheaper way of doing the same thing, sooner or later it’s time for radical surgery!

    Every generation needs a new revolution – Thomas Jefferson


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