What do all contemporary cyclical process management theories have in common? OK, so I better define what cyclical process management theories are: all those management theories that have a lifecycle, like business process management, project management, software or systems development (and all the ones I can’t think of right now).
Oh, and the answer to the nerd riddle is: Francis Bacon, Walter Shewhart, and William Denning.
Business process management (BPM) is looked on by many organisations as the most effective way to gain control of bloated legacy processes, to realise dollar efficiencies, and as a way to innovate and even disrupt.
This can all be true. But like most other efficiency efforts it can and does frequently fail before it begins, through bad planning. Planning should be recognised as a creative, intellectual exercise. If it is only technique and method, even stellar performance in business analysis, project management, and execution can be an uphill battle.
Knowing better, but actually being struck across the forehead with evidence of astonishing stupidity in academic and business practices is probably more painful than that initial moment of clarity when the futility of determinist reductionism first comes into sharp focus.
The latter occurred for me decades ago, and echoes the late Christopher Hitchens’ ruminations on people who have power:
… I began to discern one of the elements of an education: get as near to the supposed masters and commanders as you can and see what stuff they are really made of. As I watched famous scholars and professors flounder here and there, I also, in my career as a speaker at the Oxford Union, had a chance to meet senior ministers and parliamentarians “up close” and dine with them before as well as drink with them afterward, and be amazed once again at how ignorant and sometimes plain stupid were the people who claimed to run the country.
— Christopher Hitchens (2010). Hitch 22: A Memoir. New York: Twelve/Hachette Book Group, p 98.
IFN515 – Fundamentals of Business Process Management
WEEK ONE: Dubious foundations with a glib approach
The most conspicuous absence in the introductory lecture and readings has been any mention of enterprise architecture as the overarching strategic discipline in process modelling, implementation, and management.
Instead we are presented with a standalone conception rooted in the work of the late Michael Hammer (13 April 1948 – 3 Sept 2008), whose 1990 Harvard Business Review essay ‘Reengineering Work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate’ is an ode to ‘Chainsaw’ Al Dunlap, the Wall Street buccaneers that adored him, and ultimately to the ascendant plutocratic orthodoxy that has manipulated economic policy in the USA since the 1980s.
Hammer’s thrust appeared to be quite rational: re-align business processes with customers to create greater value by cutting waste, flattening hierarchies, reducing human interventions, and ultimately getting rid of jobs through the automation his headline seemed to steer clear of.
No doubt American corporations couldn’t compete possessing bloated management structures and dated processes against the sharp and hive-like Japanese corporations which treated all employees as dehumanised worker ants.
But as has been remarked so often elsewhere, most notably by Henry Mintzberg, this kind of management ‘rationalisation’ really only led to dehumanisation and some short-term turnarounds that weren’t longitudinally recognised as competitive advantage for lack of strategic vision.