Management processes are, all too often, designed as an afterthought, with much more time invested in the development of the core processes that deliver customer value. The resulting management process is often a list of concepts or management topics rather than a purposeful and interconnected system of activities.
In a previous post I argue that managing business processes should be an integral part of the organisation’s management process (and not a separate lifecycle) and therefore a top-level management responsibility. Following the understanding that a process is not just a sequence, but a system of activities, we are essentially talking about a management system. For that reason I will treat the terms ‘management process’ and ‘management system’ as synonyms.
This post proposes a framework for a management process (or system) that includes business process management (BPM) as an integral component whilst taking a holistic view by combining BPM with the adjacent disciplines organisational development and asset management.
The External Environment
Geary Rummler (2006) with his consulting company Performance Design Labs, set the processes of an organisation in the context of the near and far external environment. Though this is not the topic for now, it is included here for the sake of completeness to indicate that the management process operates within a larger context that needs to be duely considered. This will be discussed in later posts.
The Internal Environment – Process Categories
Looking now at the internal environment of the organisation, this is commonly visualised as a process map with three categories of processes: Management processes, core processes, support processes (differing from but synonymous to Rummler’s wording above).
I have added relationships between each process category. This is adapted from the formal systems model (Fortune, 1993) which is a generalizable model of a system capable of purposeful activity without failure. For the purpose of this post, these relationships should help specify what the management processes (or management system) needs to provide: Purpose, direction, initial design of the process system, allocation of authority and resources and legitimisation of action. This is no small feat especially if this is to be delivered in a format that can be understood and acted on by those running the core processes.
Now let’s take a look inside the proposed management process – first on a high level:
The focus of the top-level management system is clearly on strategy. This strategy will be informed by innovation potentials. We will ignore innovation for now in order to limit the scope of this post (not because innovation is not important – it may be vital and it may relate to process innovation). Strategy is formulated, then implemented and then executed on in operations. As any healthy system needs control, the strategy is evaluated whether it is properly implemented and whether it has been effective. Let’s now take a look at the second level content of these processes:
The business strategy will translate into strategic goals and objectives that will require organisational capabilities to achieve. Building and maintaining these capabilities is a combined effort of the process, organisational and resource strategies – therefore these must not just be aligned to the business strategy but also to each other. And of course this is not a waterfall process but a highly iterative one. The implementation of these strategies is packaged into a project portfolio and budgeted accordingly. Resource strategy in this case refers to all tangible and intangible resources required to run the processes and the organisation – a broad interpretation that pertains to the resource based view of the organisation.
Strategy implementation is managed by the PMO in way of projects and programs. Using established methods of project and project portfolio management provides a high degree of transparency and control to strategy implementation and is therefore a key vehicle to establishing effective governance. This approach requires a PMO structure that is geared to strategic management and C-Level management involvement. Listing BPM, resource management and organisational development projects separately is misleading here, as most projects will be cross-disciplinary as visualised in the following picture.
Note that in brackets in the level 2 processes I have listed typical BPM lifecycle elements as identified in my post on ‘The Problem with the BPM Lifecycle‘ – these are integrated here into a holistic management process (and not treated as a seperate BPM lifecycle that attempts to manage processes in isolation). Under the management process ‘Managing Operations’ I have added the bullet ‘Facilitate continuous process improvement’. This relates to the proposal made in the above mentioned post to add an element to the BPM lifecycle for day-to-day improvements that do not trigger another cycle through process discovery. The actual improvement work is run in the operational teams, the job of management is to facilitate this by providing direction, motivating and enabling staff and legitimising time spent on continuous improvement activities.
Implications for Top Management
Following this kind of management process that combines several management disciplines requires C-Level managers with sufficient insights into these methodologies. It is no longer possible to delegate organisational development to the HR department and BPM to the quality department as disconnected initiatives. That does not mean that C-Level managers need to be top-class project, process or change managers. But they do need to connect and guide these disciplines and to take on the accountability for the results. They need to collaboratively, in a cross-disciplinary team, translate strategy into a project portfolio and to select and approve those projects that will impact strategy and performance most and stop those that do not deliver the required value. They will need to take a holistic view of strategy implementation and operations and facilitate combined continuous improvement of processes, organisation and resources.
Putting the Management Process into Action – A Contingency Approach
An organisation’s process, OD or resource management journey may start at different points for different reasons. It may be the next SAP technology jump that dictates the definition of a complete process template. It could be market price pressure that requires bringing in a high level of operational excellence to bring down costs. Or a production manager may want to address a bottle neck in a specific work area. Or employees may be annoyed with repetitive hick-ups in a process and the unnecessary rework involved. Very few organisations are willing or able to implement a full-blown management process that integrates multiple management disciplines in a big bang – and there may be no benefit in doing so (but possibly a lot of risk).
This is where the contingency approach comes in – the ability to adapt the approach to the specific context. This does not play well with consultants who like to apply a one size fits all methodology, but it caters for the fact that each case is different and will benefit from a customised approach.
A toolset approach as in the sub-title of this blog seems contrary to a contingency approach. This is where I use a trick from the IPMA project management standard: A check-list of project management deliverables is used to select which deliverables should be produced depending on the nature and complexity of the project. The benefit is that you apply proven methods, but only those that are effective for the case at hand. A similar check-list is under development for BPM and management deliverables – but more on this in subsequent blogs.
White, D., Fortune, J., (2009). The project-specific Formal System Model. International Journal of Managing Projects in Business, 2(1) pp. 36–52.
Fortune, J., (1993) Systems Paradigms, Open University Press, 1993 (see also https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/systems-thinking-complexity/0/steps/20390 retrieved on 17.04.2020)
Rummler, G. (2006) Value Creation Hierarchy, Performance Design Labs 2016