We find ourselves presented with situations where our clients are looking for “Breakthrough Performance” rather than mere “Process Improvement”. In her guest post on Jim Sinur’s blog, Elise Olding points out that many rush headlong into implementation looking for an elusive Magic Bullet (there aren’t any, but you could describe BPM initiatives as a Golden Gun). She quickly alluded to the need for a number of techniques including “Process Walkthroughs” (following the work item), through Sticky Notes or PostIt Sessions, down to and including sitting with the users and observing what they do.
While all these techniques are useful and interesting, they don’t go far enough to deliver the breakthrough improvements that customers seek. In business today, generally what is needed is not “Better Sameness” but “Transformation”. But existing processes usually focus on the needs of the company – delivering stronger management control, and reinforcing functional priorities.
However, we believe that the best practice to deliver breakthroughs is quite different from any of these approaches. We start from a different place – the “Customer Experience” – a stance that is all about building competitive advantage.
Process breakthroughs come from thinking about everything we do in terms of how what we do can assist in delivering a Great Customer Experience. This dynamic lens is dramatically different from the traditional process improvement approach. It has the effect of inspiring completely different insights and generating new ways of doing things (rather than paving the cow paths). Once you are standing in the shoes of the customer, you no longer see the functional bias that reinforces existing behaviors.
In the early 90s the CEO of Sony pointed out that, every manufacturer had all the parts needed for a Sony Walkman sitting on their shelves – but only Sony asked the customer what they wanted. As a result, they transformed the way we listen to music (even if they did miss the disruptive innovation of hard disk based players).
In the end, we believe that you have to build a “Transformational Vision” around what the customer values – be it an internal customer, supplier customer, partner customer or end consumer. So we will continue to use the “Customer Experience” lens as the best route to achieving breakthroughs in process performance.