Thursday, May 06, 2010

Berg on Holmes on Homes

Ok, I admit it. I’m an HGTV junkie. You all know what I mean. It’s time to come clean.

There is one show in particular that has, well, inspired me. Perhaps you’ve seen it, too? It’s called Holmes on Homes, and it follows the travails of hapless homeowners who’ve been duped by disreputable contractors and are left holding a pile of worthless work in progress. Mike Holmes and his crew come in like the cavalry to sift through the shoddy, typically half-done project to reveal inadequate or improper work that usually has to be ripped out and redone. In Mike’s words, “I can’t leave it. I gotta fix it.” Why? Without a solid foundation upon which to build that new kitchen, a finished basement or the backyard deck the homeowners always wanted, the final product will be inferior, no matter how nice it may look on the outside.

If any of this is resonating with any of you, well, good. Because there’s no stretch in drawing a parallel between the vignettes I so enjoy watching on Holmes on Homes and the many, many inferior attempts at building the supporting infrastructure for so many companies. Stories of failed implementations running into the tens of millions of dollars (or more) are legendary. The reasons for failure are many, but at their core exists a universal theme: in their zeal to get the project done, the project team forgot, was unable – or decided not – to do the hard work of creating a solid foundation.

It is in that spirit that I reintroduce this blog, formerly “BPM Insights,” as “Foundations.” Over the coming months, we’ll share with you our own stories of success and failure, and introduce many of the fundamental tools and methods required to build a strong foundation for any operational initiative.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Process of Change

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”

- Charles Darwin

Whatever side of the argument you’re on, well, that’s irrelevant. What we have all witnessed as a nation is the process of change on a massive scale. We saw how deeply entrenched people can get when guided by the power of their beliefs. Good or bad, right or wrong, momentous or catastrophic, we probably won’t know for years to come. But we do know this: politicians, notoriously protective of their turf, unwilling to upset the status quo for fear of losing their positions, set aside their political motives and voted their consciences to enact the largest social reform measure in half a century.

As President Obama said, “This is what change looks like.” It’s not pretty, it can be incredibly difficult, but the only way any society – or organization – can advance is by making the tough decisions that are not always the most popular to serve a greater good.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Effective Meetings

It’s always a good idea to revisit some fundamental management principles to keep ourselves focused and productive. And what part of our day is more time consuming than the seemingly endless barrage of meetings and conference calls that beckon us? One of the most productive meetings I’ve ever been involved with was led by Ken Ciancimino, the then-Executive Director of the Trump Organization. Our little IT-company had a proposal for Mr. Trump, and he was kind enough to have one of his senior executives listen. Entering the meeting room precisely at the designated time, Mr. Ciancimino explained: “Here’s how we do meetings here. I want to know who, what, where, when, how and why. And then we’re done. Fair enough?” Without the need for any further explanation, we knew exactly what to present. He made it abundantly clear that time was money, and gave us a simple, universally understood outline to ensure we covered all the bases he needed covered to report back. We were in and out in less than 30 minutes. A colleague from Trump’s IT group followed up the next day with a 4-page technical questionnaire. Efficiency defined. Wow.

Through my involvement in a few hundred meetings at dozens of client companies over the past several years, it’s become evident that the lessons learned on that day in Trump Tower are lost on most – and that some simple guidelines might yield some real benefit. Here’s my take on good meetings; feel free to share your own ideas and experiences:

  • Start on time. How many meetings are scheduled to start at a specific time, yet the meeting organizer wants to “wait a few more minutes” for one or two late arrivals? This punishes and frustrates the folks who were on time. The latecomers can catch up, or be briefed after the meeting by one of their colleagues.

  • Always have an agenda. Provide meeting participants with a meeting agenda in advance of the meeting, providing enough time for preparation. Not providing an agenda almost guarantees a meandering discussion.

  • Facilitate. If you call a meeting and provide an agenda, then lead the meeting. State the agenda at the outset. Keep one eye on the agenda, and the other on the clock. Be mindful of other people’s time and keep the conversation moving. Resist the temptation to deliver speeches or to proselytize, and make certain anyone who wants to be heard is heard.

  • Set the default meeting duration to 30 minutes. It seems the “default” time for any meeting is one hour. Setting the default time to 30 minutes adds a little “creative tension” to the meeting and inhibits the empty chatter that fills far too many meetings.

  • Keep the group size manageable. Trying to facilitate a meeting of more than 10 or so participants is like (to use an overused metaphor) trying to herd cats. Keep the group relatively small and focused.

  • Have take-aways. Once the agenda has been covered, ensure there are specific actions defined and assigned. Gain acknowledgement that the person to whom something is assigned is “owned” by them, and have them offer a definitive date and time by which the activity will be completed.

  • Stop on time. Do not overrun the allotted time. Use the last minute or two to summarize what’s been accomplished and who is responsible for what. If, with a few minutes remaining, it does not appear that the agenda will be covered, schedule a second meeting.

These are common sense ideas that will pay great dividends to those who take them to heart. As process improvement consultants, we’re constantly looking for ways to increase productive capacity and reduce waste. As one of the major consumers of our time, meetings demand solid discipline and the application of good practices.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Business Process Maturity

The Object Management Group recently published version 1.0 of their Business Process Maturity Model (BPMM), available for download at Modeled on the familiar Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI), the BPMM describes five levels of process maturity from Initial through Innovating. A quick review of the table of contents should be enlightening to most executives. For example, is your organization paying attention to organizational process leadership? Monitoring and control? Sourcing management? Competency development? Improvement planning? Organizational performance alignment? How? Are your processes documented? Do you have adequate activity definitions and job descriptions? Training materials?

Traversing the five maturity levels is no easy task. Like everything else, however, it’s important to take stock of where you are now (Level 1?), where you want to be (Level 5), examine the gap between and develop a plan of action. Process maturity levels include:

1. Initial. There are no specific objectives. Success in these organizations depends on the competence and heroics of the people in the organization and not on the use of proven processes.

2. Managed. The objective is to create a management foundation within each work unit or project.

3. Standardized. The objective is to establish and use a common organizational process infrastructure and associate process assets to achieve consistency in how work is performed to provide the organization’s products and services.

4. Predictable. The objective is to manage and exploit the capability of the organizational process infrastructure and associated process assets to achieve predictable results with controlled variation.

5. Innovating. The objective is to continuously improve the organization’s processes and the resulting products and services through defect and problem intervention, continuous capability, and planned innovative improvements.

You might begin by understanding where your organization fits into this model – taking an honest assessment is the first step. For a deeper dive into the model, I encourage you to visit and download the entire BPMM version 1.0 document.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Taking Stock

If you’re in operations management, when was the last time you reviewed your organizational processes? Really dug in and analyzed the nuts and bolts of the work that’s being done? Activities, and the steps required to fulfill them, are rife with redundancy, rework and opportunities for error. Talking to staff members about frustrations they might face in their approach to the work they do often reveals inconsistency in work processes – the great enemy of quality outputs. Just taking the time to model processes can reveal multiple opportunities for improvement. The first step is to simply get organized.

One method we use in our practice to help our clients organize their improvement efforts is Process Mastering. The Process Master is a list of critical organizational processes we assemble to examine the suppliers, inputs, activities, outputs, consumers and measures for each. We create the Process Master by working directly with our clients’ management teams to identify critical “moments of truth” in operational processes that introduce opportunities for error, cause delay and enable other process challenges that drive up costs and destroy productivity.

It takes very little time to create, yet provides an extraordinary launching pad for all future process improvement efforts.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Michael Hammer, Process Pioneer

I learned with sadness this morning that Michael Hammer, who, together with James Champy, set off a process improvement revolution with their seminal Reengineering the Corporation, has died. While I did not know Dr. Hammer personally, his family, friends and colleagues should know that he inspired a generation of process professionals - and set in motion the careers of an army of consultants who have undoubtedly helped thousands of companies realize greater value from their operations.

Having left pieces of himself in countless organizations that have benefited from his ideas, Dr. Hammer leaves an enduring legacy, a little slice of immortality.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Business Process Management Summit

The fine folks at IQPC are taking a different tack in a forthcoming Business Process Management Summit being held in Las Vegas later this year.

The BPM community is clearly waking up to the notion that the business side of BPM – something I like to rant about – is pretty important. They have an excellent lineup of sessions, including an ARIS master class where simulation runs and results will be discussed. The emphasis, however, seems to be a refreshing shift to the “softer” aspects of BPM, with sessions on business process change, business process ownership, building a business case for BPM and aligning process innovations with business objectives – all music to my ears. They also have a fine group of speakers, including Bennu Group’s Terry Schurter and others from JP Morgan Chase, Liberty Mutual, Microsoft, NASA, Intel, Wachovia, Harley Davidson, Boeing and Merck. Definitely worth checking out. The event is being held at the Venetian Resort Hotel October 27 – 30th. Visit here for more information. (I understand they're even offering a $500 discount if you register before August 1.)


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Vendors Are People, Too

We go to great lengths to ensure our employees are happy and productive. We design comfortable workspaces, provide break rooms, paid time off – even if just for “personal” reasons – enroll them in training and educational programs and reward them for a job well done with a periodic bonus. We do this to keep them focused, as we all know the hunt for talent is grueling at best, and when we find that rare gem of a top-rate employee, we bend over backwards to keep them on the team.

Why, then, do we treat vendors like second class citizens? We often go through great lengths to sell the vendor to the organization, but once we win over our colleagues and hire the vendor, we often fail miserably at keeping them happy and focused. Worse, we typically don’t give vendors an incentive for jobs well done, rather, our lawyers structure agreements that penalize for jobs poorly done. We aren’t taking the time to understand their needs or what motivates them as individuals, rather, we’re concerned with covering our own rear ends and think nothing of hanging a vendor out to dry when the going gets tough. We pay them, they owe us – quite a bit like late nineteenth century factory foremen dealing with their workers.

In my work evaluating system implementations for some very large companies, the vendor-client relationship often seems to be a contentious one, starting out with great promise but disintegrating into a blame-fest. Why is this so?

From my perspective, it’s the easy way out, a path of least resistance. Remarkable that some companies would rather scrap hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars and abort a bad project with a bad vendor than take the time to rehabilitate it provided the vendor gets the blame. To be sure, sometimes this is the right decision. But who’s to blame, really?

Selecting the right vendor is, of course, critically important to project success. We’re often so dazzled by demos that we forget to run the vendor through the proper paces. We also fail to indoctrinate the vendor into our way of doing things. Rather, we see vendors forcing their way onto the client without considering the client’s culture or the available skills of its employees. So the first step to good vendor relations is – surprise, surprise – selecting a good one in the first place.

Next, provide incentives for vendors rather than penalties. Would you think for a second of fining an employee for a late project, of actually taking money from their pocket? Probably not, unless your last name is Machiavelli. You may give them little or no bonus; you may fire them. But I’m sure you wouldn’t actually take money from them.

We make considerable investments in outside products and services and, as the world continues to flatten and we focus on our core businesses to remain competitive, there will be a greater need to better manage vendor relationships. Start to think of them a bit more like you think of your employees, and you’ll soon see the same enthusiasm, diligence and attention to detail you so value in your best employees.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The First Law of Holes

You’ve all heard of the First Law of Holes, no?

So many of us find ourselves in a position of overwhelm, faced with tremendous pressures as the work we’re charged with doing each day piles up. It seems never ending – a vicious cycle – like Sisyphus, we toil all day, all week, all month, all year only to have the work pile up on us again and again and again.

Well, the first thing we need is a little perspective. The fact that any of us have any work to do at all is a good thing. It keeps our minds occupied, roofs over our heads and food on our tables.

Next, we need to examine why the work piles up. (I’ve written before about people being so “busy” all the time.) Take this example: you wake up in the morning, grab your robe, pour yourself a cup of coffee and read the paper. You next jump into the shower, get dressed and head to the office. A typical morning in a typical humdrum life. How a person approaches even those very simple, natural, daily events, however, can profoundly influence their state of overwhelm.

Consider Dave, a busy lawyer, married with two young children who routinely puts in 60 hour work weeks. Here’s how his day goes:

Dave wakes up at 6:00 am, puts on his robe, pours coffee, adds the contents of a sugar packet and leaves the empty packet on the counter, takes out a spoon, stirs the coffee and leaves the spoon on the counter. He drinks his coffee and leaves the cup on the table in front of the TV. He next heads to the shower, leaves his robe and nightclothes on the floor, jumps in, scrubs himself, towels himself off and gets dressed. Let’s stop there.

Steve, an accountant, also married with two kids, wakes up at 6:00 am, pours coffee, adds sugar, takes out a spoon, stirs the coffee and places the spoon in the dishwasher and trashes the empty packet. He drinks his coffee and places the empty cup in the dishwasher as well. He heads to the shower, puts his robe on the door hook, places his clothes in the hamper, etc.

At the end of each week, Dave has accumulated 7 spoons and coffee cups, a mess of sugar and coffee remnants (that have attracted ants), a pile of clothes on the floor and an angry wife. In essence, he has created work for himself; he now must deal with several new tasks at the end of each week: cleaning up the morning dishes from the week, throwing out the empty sugar packets, wiping up the mess he's left, spraying to get rid of the ants that have gathered and sorting his piles of clothing for the hamper, which all told add an extra 20 minutes of work each week to his already busy schedule (not to mention the potential for a good half-hour argument with his significant other). Steve, on the other hand, has created no work for himself. He’s ready to do the laundry and he presses “start” on the dishwasher. Steve has an extra 20 minutes at the end of each week simply by approaching his morning activities in a different way. While this may sound trivial, it is these little accumulations of additional time brought about by certain approaches to work that cause bottlenecks. Multiply Dave’s extra 20 minutes per week to clean up each of the little messes he’s made over the course of a year – at home and at work – and the numbers become staggering. In fact, Steve could easily wind up with an “extra” week or two of productive time at the end of each year. Dave feels overwhelmed; Steve does not, yet Steve seems to get more work done. How is this possible?

Take this idea a step further and think about a modest-sized company with 400 employees, 200 of whom are Daves and 200 of whom are Steves. At the end of each year, the Steves will collectively have, conservatively speaking, 200 “extra” weeks of productive time, or 3.8 years! If the average employee costs the company $75,000 per year in salary and benefits, The Steves will contribute an extra $285,000 to the company’s bottom line – enough to add nearly 4 new employees – simply by approaching their work in a more efficient way.

In performing his daily tasks, Dave contributes to a mounting pile of work, while Steve does not. Each day, Dave digs his hole a little deeper. And the First Law of Holes? Stop digging.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sales, Schmales

"Organizations operate under tremendous competitive pressure to improve the customer experience while cutting costs and increasing efficiency."

Nothing like stating the obvious, eh?

This phrase, taken from one vendor's sales literature, might just as well have come from a hundred others'. First off, the insinuation - that my business is not competitive - might be seen as offensive by some. The piece continues to pronounce that the offered product is a "complete solution" (will it even do my laundry?) that promises "best in class integration" (without knowing anything about my current technology?) that includes "superior design tools" (superior to what?).

Why do so many vendors out there posit the same regurgitated pablum? Why are there so many lists of customer "benefits" that include bullet points like: "reduce costs", "improve efficiency", "get to market faster", etc.? Are there really that many decision makers out there that read this stuff and run to dial the phone?

Look, folks, the field is crowded out there. The key to competition is differentiation. Daring to be different. But that, too, gets taken to the extreme. Take the all-black, shaved-head-and-goatee look of the dot com era, for example. Everyone was so busy daring to be different, that they became just like everyone else (evidenced by a walk down West Broadway in SoHo circa 1999).

To be sure, I use as much jargon as the next person. But there comes a point where the meaning behind the words is lost, reduced to saying the words for the words' own sake. If you're selling me a means to obtain a "sustainable competitive advantage", you had better know a lot more about my business and my industry than you already do.

One of the more indelible aphorisms I recall from my early years in business is this one: "Great salespeople do not sell; they create in their prospects the desire to buy." The way to accomplish this? Listen. Listen some more. Listen even more.

Then respond, thoughtfully.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Perpetual Optimism

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.”

These words of Colin Powell’s should resonate throughout all organizations. Pessimists insist that cautious approaches to work provide safety and security, when nothing could be further from the truth. Pessimistic approaches to business processes include not fixing them because “they ain’t broke.” Nonsense.

Your competitors are out there brainstorming to come up with new ways to tackle problems you may have not even considered – and then pulling the trigger to launch new, innovative, even exciting ways to get work done. This optimistic approach means those who are working toward more effective, efficient and agile operations tackle each problem as an opportunity to remake their organizations, instead of stumbling blocks to be avoided. Pessimists shrink from their responsibility to push the envelope; optimists grow world-class companies.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Oh, Verizon...

Have you ever tried to get a service disconnected? Of course you have. Here’s a funny story to which we can all relate.

Recently, I contacted Verizon to disconnect a landline I was barely using a few days in advance of a move. I dutifully called the toll free number handily printed on the first page on my monthly bill. Naturally, I got the usual succession of ring-transfer-ring-recorded message which asked me, in order to expedite my call, to enter my telephone number, area code first, which I did, was told (in a computer-generated voice) “one moment please” and was then sent on a second round of ring- transfer-on hold music when finally, about seven minutes into the call, a live person picked up.

“Thank you for calling Verizon. Can you please provide your phone number with the area code first?”

“Ok,” I thought to myself. “I’ll be pleasant, even though I already entered that information in order to expedite the call.”

“Three-one-oh, five-five-five, one-two-three-four”

“And can you please verify your address,” asked the customer service rep on the other end of the phone.

“Sure,” I continued, “it’s...” and proceeded to give my address.

“How may I help you today?” inquired the courteous person from Verizon.

“I’d like to disconnect my service,” I offered.

“I’m sorry sir,” the rep interjected. “I’ll have to transfer you to disconnection. One moment please...”

And so began another cycle of ring-transfer-ring...

After another three or four minutes, another rep picked up the call.

“Thank you for calling Verizon. May I have your phone number with the area code first, please...”

“Sure,” I began, “It’s five-five-five...” etc.

“And for security purposes, can I ask you to please verify your address?” the rep requested, which I, again, did.

“I’m sorry sir, but your account is with a different division of Verizon, called Verizon Avenue. I can transfer you if you like,” the rep said, apologetically.

“Yes, please transfer me,” I replied, now a little agitated.

And so began another cycle of ring-transfer-ring...

And after yet another three or four minutes, another rep answered the call:

“Thank you for calling Verizon. May I have your phone number with the area code first, please...”

“Sure,” I began, “It’s five-five-five...,” etc.

“And for security purposes, can I ask you to please verify your address?” the rep requested, which I, again, did.

“I’m sorry sir, but I’ll need to transfer you to a different department. One moment please...”

And so began yet another cycle of ring-transfer-ring...

And after yet another five minutes or so, another rep answered the call:

“Thank you for calling Verizon. May I have your phone number with the area code first, please...”

“Sure,” I stammered, sputtering spittle as I spoke. “It’s five-five-five...,” etc., now seriously agitated.

“And for security purposes can I ask you to please verify your address?” the rep requested, which I, again, did.

“And how may I help you today Mr. Berg?”

“I’d like to disconnect my service...” I offered, again.

The rep continued, “May I ask why?”

“I’m moving. I’ll no longer need the service,” I replied.

“Well, we’re very sorry you’re choosing to leave us. May I ask where you’re moving to?” The rep inquired.

“I really don’t see the point – “

“Well, sir, we like to keep track of our customers. You have no obligation to provide that information, though we may need to send a final bill,” the rep replied.

“I’ve left a forwarding address. My mail will get to me,” I offered, irritated but remaining composed.

And after roughly ten more minutes of questions and responses and mother’s maiden names and being placed on hold while something or other got checked, I was given a confirmation number, an order was placed to disconnect my landline. Finally.

So, wow. What a lesson in what not to do to your customers, even when they’re about to be ex-customers. To disconnect one residential landline, four representatives of Verizon were involved through three separate transfers (four if you include the initial queuing to get the first rep on the phone) over approximately a thirty minute period. Yes, I realize the human factor in trying to keep me as customer, in trying to find out to where I was moving, but the bad press and bad will generated must supersede any potential benefit, no?

Now, suppose, just suppose, I could have logged onto their website, entered information to verify my identity (perhaps like my bank or brokerage or credit card companies do, which seems to be secure enough for them) and requested that my service be disconnected.

Imagine a world like that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Why Change Is So Hard

Einstein said we have one important decision to make in our lives, and that is to decide for ourselves whether we live in a friendly or a hostile universe. Our competition-laden lives are so burdened with proving ourselves that the friendly universe we’d all love to be a part of is all too elusive. And that process of proving is about feeling a sense of value – that we’re contributing to something larger than ourselves. This is all very Maslowian, of course; we’re humans, after all, and we all need some form of periodic validation.

So along comes the BPM expert with her “should be” process models that fly in the face of the “as is” state and, naturally, there’s instant defensiveness and insecurity on the part of those who designed the existing processes. In one fell swoop, their good work is undone, their sense of value shattered. This is no joke; it lies at the very heart of managing change.

Perhaps you’ve seen the movie Office Space. In it, a meeting with “The Bobs” – a pair of management consultants named Robert – was a dreaded goodness-of-fit test with the company. In my own work, I experience the very same apprehension when I interview staff (it can’t help that my first name is Robert, either). The fear is apparent; the nervous questions almost always precede the interview:

“Is everything ok?”

“Am I in trouble?”

“Is my job safe?”

It’s almost heartbreaking to listen as the interviewees’ fears rear their ugly heads. My job is to put them at ease, to reassure them that what management intends to do is simply refine, improve, better meet the competition. Rarely, I remark, do people lose their jobs over my recommendations. Truth is, sometimes they do. As such, there’s a need to balance the intimacy that facilitates good information gathering during discovery periods with the cool detachment of a professional whose charge it is to remain objective. The trick is to be understanding, to realize that questioning the way someone performs their work will often come across as threatening, undermining that fragile sense of value we all crave. Resistance to change is often a direct product of someone feeling threatened, less valuable, expendable.

The point of all this? There is a decidedly human side to business process management that far outweighs the technical or mechanical aspects. An old friend, a venture capitalist in Seattle who holds a PhD in Physics from Yale and an MBA from Wharton told me not long ago that his education was important, but he would have been far better served in his dealings with business owners and the staffs they employ with a psychology degree. All of the technical know-how in the world pales in comparison to the finesse of someone who understands human motivation, the “people part” of process. That’s why change is so hard.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


That’s the standard reply these days from just about anyone to whom I pose the question, “How are you doing?” Back when I worked on Wall Street, when cell phones were rare and a blackberry was something you ate, the response was “Great!” or “Fantastic!” Today, the responder inevitably puts their head down and shakes it in disbelief as if to underscore the pile of work they’re facing while they pronounce, “Busy,” usually with a hint of resignation and a small sigh for effect. This seems to be a universal reply: This morning, at the grocery store, a customer in front of me asked the cashier how she was doing. “Busy” was her reply. There were three of us in line as she “busily” dragged goods across the scanner and “busily” watched as the customer swiped her credit card for payment. Busy, indeed.

Cut to a typical morning at the airport, where lately I’ve been spending a lot of mornings, as my travel schedule tends to keep me airborne. Near the gate, there are usually several well-dressed gentlemen talking on a cell phone, typing diligently into a blackberry or working on a laptop (or, most often, some combination of the three), grabbing those precious minutes between Group 1 and Group 4 boarding to respond to an email or add that important column to a spreadsheet or follow up with someone at the office to ensure that proposal went out. Wow. Are more deals getting done? The now ubiquitous blinking blue lights on the half-ounce Bluetooth earpiece screams of the diligence and dedication of the world-weary working warrior that, even when he’s not working, he’s working, always ready to take that call in an instant, always ready to get the deal done, always available, anytime, any place, to serve you better, to be the best he can be, to excel and beat his competition.

Then why, pray tell, can I rarely get someone on the phone on the first try? Why am I almost always sent into voicemail when I call someone at the office? Where is the friendly greeting of years gone by that asked me, politely, to where I would like my call directed? Here’s my theory: we busy ourselves with nothing. We busy ourselves to feel as if we’re being productive. We create “work” where none exists. We are victims of the information economy, struggling to shift our focus from the piecemeal workaday processes that used to yield definitive deliverables you could put your arms around, to the now amorphous intangibles that characterize the product for which so many of us are being paid. Contemplate this: If I sit and think about a client’s business challenge for five hours while staring at the Pacific Ocean, am I being less productive than attempting the same great feat while juggling my cell phone, blackberry and laptop? In which scenario will the client gain more value? What is worth more to the client? Me multitasking, and after two weeks finally squeezing out enough time to consider and respond thoughtfully to the client’s issues, or spending a half-day staring out to sea, contemplating possible solutions based on twenty-plus years of experience and a whole lot of formal education and heading back to the office to write them down? Both deliverables yield the same revenue for the firm. Ironically, the one that is delivered faster, with far more dedicated thought on my part, is the one that might lead the uninformed observer to conclude I was being lazy and unproductive, while my harried counterpart, delivering late, piecing together bits of thoughts over a far longer period of time, is assumed to be the “busy” person who appears to be hardworking.

Think about that. And think about how your own processes would be impacted by a shift in thinking that reflects true productivity, rather than perceived diligence. Confusing activity with accomplishment is a fundamental challenge to good business process management practices.

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Look in the Mirror

Man, have I heard some horror stories lately – deadlines missed, functionality incomplete, millions thrown away. Sure we’ve all heard about similar situations and all know we need to apply the discipline of project management and develop a thorough understanding of user requirements to minimize the chance of failure. But perhaps it’s time for some folks to take a hard look at themselves, to see whether they – and not their vendors or vendors’ technology – are entirely to blame for the failures of certain systems implementations.

This is all of course old news to the tech savvy out there, but my mission, with this blog and in general, is to communicate to those who are not terribly tech savvy that there are reasons for frameworks, disciplined approaches, software development lifecycles and other forms of best practice. The cynicism most have toward many of these methodologies is no doubt a function of the misuse or misapplication of them that resulted in a bad experience. To be sure, one vendor I know of promotes the use of Agile development methods in their deployment of enterprise-class systems involving complex insurance operational processes that involve offshore development teams and multiple integrations with third party systems. To me, using an Agile framework for such a project is non sequitur – the remoteness of the development team alone sort of mandates the creation of fairly detailed requirements documents – a mandate that directly contravenes the Agile philosophy.

The lesson? Get to know more about these frameworks and insist that your vendors use them properly. Make an inquiry into vendor methodology a major part of your RFP process, and insist that contending systems vendors provide vivid descriptions of the approach to the project they propose to undertake. Further, make sure your own organization is prepared for the change that’s associated with adopting a vendor’s framework, and remains committed to the approach. Sometimes, a good look in the mirror goes a long way.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Enterprise Visibility (Cheap)

A foundational element of good management, whether you call it business process management or not, is visibility. So much of our time is spent "in the weeds" - deep in the minutia, that we lose sight of the big picture. Keeping a constant eye on key metrics means first identifying and understanding what those key metrics are (and why they're important) and devising a means to constantly monitor them.

The challenge with this is that enterprise-class business intelligence systems tend be pricy and require the commitment of some already-strained IT resources. The absence of the time, money or simply the desire to implement such a system should not be an impediment, however. Use of a spreadsheet is sufficient. By creating a dashboard comprising a collection of pie charts that represent key performance indicators, taking a screen shot and publishing it on a web page using an "img src=" tag, you can provide process visibility to anyone interested via the web. Further, if you want to provide drill-down, the screen shot you use can easily be turned into an image map using simple HTML tags - you specify the upper left and lower right hand coordinates to define the clickable area of the map and the page or document to which clicking will direct users. By using an “href” tag to link the map coordinates to a project schedule, live spreadsheet or other source, users can drill down to far more detailed information. In addition, policy statements, project charters, contact lists and other process or project-related information can easily be made available. Concerned about who might be able to access the info? At the low end of security, there are many simple javascript applets that enable you to password-protect the dashboard page with no programming required. For a little more robust security, you can use a Flash page for log in info. If greater security is called for, you might have to enlist your IT department for a few minutes. Most of these scripts are available for free online.

If you want to splurge, for a modest sum you can buy Business Objects’ Crystal Xcelsius product and bring your presentations to life. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Crystal Xcelsius ties into a simple spreadsheet (or other data source) and allows you to quickly create interactive dashboards and render them as HTML pages, Flash pages or PDFs. It’s a very inexpensive way to deliver enterprise visibility into critical projects and processes. Don’t succumb to deer-in-the-headlights syndrome out of fear of the time or expense involved. Providing visibility is critical to maintaining support from senior management, gaining buy-in and literally keeping everyone on the same page, and here’s a very inexpensive way to provide it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Too Busy to Plan?

Lots of time since my last post, having been on the road and working with clients. 12,000 miles in two weeks - surely not a record, but a decent amount of air miles nonetheless. And during my travels there was apparent at one particular engagement a resistence to good project planning. Remarkable. A one-year project, now in month twenty, is off the rails. The client is unhappy. The vendor defensive. The implementation in a sort of controlled chaos. The prescription, after a week of solid assessment (staff interviews, documentation reviews, product demos, etc.)? Add a little discipline to the process of delivering this very complicated product. The response? We're too busy to plan!

This blows my mind, really. We all know the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result each time. Now there's a classic example.

Cut to a recent dinner with prospective clients (let's call them Tom and Fred) contemplating hiring a new systems vendor. "Why do you want to change vendors?" I asked, genuinely interested in what motivates companies to become so frustrated they're willing to scrap millions of dollars of investment, only to spend millions more for a replacement. "It takes four months, literally, to get anything modified in the system," was the response. Again, the issue is poor planning, poor execution and an abject lack of discipline. "We were encouraged with the speed at which they began the project," remarked Tom, "but then the thing just fell apart." Heard that one before? I have.

Cynics abound in the world of technology. The challenge is the knowledge held by the technical elite is often so obscure and difficult to grasp, that the businesspeople who have to work with the systems they create almost completely defer. Add the unbridled arrogance of a talented technologist and you get a recipe for disaster. That's not to say they're all bad; the Alistair Cockburns and Suzanne and James Robertsons of the world - probably the world's foremost authorities on requirements gathering (from a very practical perspective) - give us all hope. Those who subscribe to their methodologies - and no, not verbatim, as that's entirely impractical - but those who understand the value a framework, a proven approach to attacking complex systems implementations, brings to such projects, have a decided advantage.

My advice to the client at dinner? "I'd rather you get a little frustrated with the slowness of implementation up front given the thoroughness of the planning and requirements gathering processes, than be downright angry after months of missed deadlines." Speed at the beginning of the project might be encouraging, but it could also be a warning sign for things to come.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Folly of Over-Zealousness

We know Six Sigma has wide applications – and great successes – in the service sector. Six Sigma is no fad; it is a comprehensive collection of tools and techniques that have evolved over many years to comprise the best known way to reduce variation from processes and products, and, as a result, drive customer satisfaction.

But have you seen the Six Sigma Body of Knowledge? My own Six Sigma training involved 40 hours in the classroom over 12 weeks, 125 hours of online training and more than 100 hours of self-directed study and project work. How many of us have that extra 265+ hours to become certified? It took many weeknights and weekends as I immersed myself in ANOVA and Design of Experiments, Statistical Process Control, Quality Function Deployment, Failure Mode Effects Analysis, probability theory and hypothesis testing. By the time the exam came around I was a basket case, dreaming of Goodness-of-Fit tests and fractional factorials. There is an intense commitment required for any single person to undertake the level of study required to embrace the entirety of the Six Sigma BOK. Multiply that singular effort by a department full of staff, and you get controlled chaos at best, anarchy at worst.

In reality we’ll most likely use just a part of the BOK in our daily work. As a management consultant working exclusively in the insurance industry, I find little use for the repeatability and reproducibility studies used to determine the precision and accuracy of gauges. Nor are the Mohs hardness scale, optical comparators or eddy current testing likely to find their way into my consultant’s bag of tricks. The point? A better approach to teaching process improvement skills is to start small, with a few big-picture ideas, and then drill down into ever-more complex techniques until the desired results are attainable. Throwing everything at staff all at once, in some sort of one-size-fits-all approach to skills development is bad form. Further, by doing so you’ll see many pairs of eyes rolling as a once-familiar grade school mantra begins to resurface: “When are we ever going to use this...?”

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Outsourcing Insurance Operations

No doubt you’re well aware of an increasing trend to re-deploy certain insurance operations using outsourcing vendors. Customer support functions, including claims handling, general policy inquiries and many back office processes are being relegated to these service providers, allowing insurers to focus on what they do best: create new products, market them and drive new premium. The evolution of (and consequent cost reductions afforded by) telecommunications and the increasing sophistication of supply-chain management has made it far easier for a company to implement an outsourcing strategy – regardless of whether the provider is in Bayonne or Bangalore. This “first generation” outsourcing has been going on for many, many years, though it only recently gained widespread attention as jobs began shifting overseas. The point of this article is not to advocate offshoring, rather to provide some insight on new outsourcing models that mark the continuing progress of supply chain management, all facilitated by better, faster and cheaper communications and compounded by the experiences of years gone by.

That next generation of outsourcing – the “second generation” – encroaches on more highly-skilled domains, and, as such, is not without its critics. However, the economies an insurance company can derive by intelligently supplementing existing internal operations with a vendor who operates with greater efficiency surely validates the strategy – especially in an industry where small gains in net margin amount to substantially increased income.

Take for example the state filings process. Traditionally an internal function, over the past several years more insurers have begun realizing that professional service firms focused exclusively on managing the filing process for multiple insurers simply have evolved better procedures, greater efficiencies and, as a result, more cost-effective operations. Further, the market cycles that betray the insurance industry are more easily weathered, as the inevitable force reductions that accompany softening markets can be addressed simply by scaling back the outsourcing vendor’s services.

Product research is another great example. Imagine the tedium of collecting rate filings from fifty states, digitizing and indexing them for easy access and archiving them all in a massive searchable database. Better, access an existing database from a vendor who manages the continuous updating and maintenance and provides access on a pay-per-use basis.

Finally, there’s technology selection. The process of identifying the appropriate vendor for a major systems overhaul is daunting. The selection process alone can take a year or more; implementation can take several years more. Between the requests for information, requests for proposal, product demonstrations, requirements gathering, project management, training and ongoing support, systems implementations – especially those for critical processes like policy issuance or claims handling – weigh heavily on an organization. Bringing in a firm that has deep knowledge of leading vendors’ systems and the processes they enable can shave months or years from the process.

Outsourcing insurance operations support can help insurers focus on what they do best, concentrating their efforts on the premium generation and customer-facing processes that separate competitors. Outsourcing makes sense; outsourcing judiciously, with an understanding of those areas most suitable for it, makes profit.

Monday, February 19, 2007

That Sound!

For those of you who are fans of old movies, few are as well done as The Glenn Miller Story (1953) with James Stewart and June Allyson. Not only are Louis Armstrong and Gene Krupa featured, there are some great examples to follow. Yeah, yeah, what does this have to do with business process management? I suppose my curse is seeing the relevance of BPM in just about everything. So I’ll elucidate:

First off, Glenn (played by Stewart) sets an objective and goes for it. This is perhaps best exemplified by a favorite scene of mine, a scene in which, after two years of no contact, he calls up a former flame (Helen Berger, played by Allyson) in Denver and asks her to meet him in New York after getting a steady job for the first time. “But Glenn, it’s been two years! I’m engaged” protests Helen. These words would make most men slink away, humiliated. Not Miller. As legend has it, and as the movie aptly portrays, his response is, “Nonsense! Now there’s a train leaving Denver...”

Wow! Here is a man committed. Nothing was going to stop him and the realization of his goal. Helen, of course, showed up in New York three days later, on the very train Miller suggested, with Glenn chivalrously waiting to greet her trackside at Grand Central. He envisioned. He planned. He executed. And this is just the setup.

His music was legendary. Different. His band had a unique sound, a differentiating quality not known before he invented it. As the story goes, that unique quality – that sound – was something for which he searched for years. He knew it was there. He knew there had to be something unique about his offering, lest he be relegated to the heap of also-rans playing ballrooms and dime dances. He didn’t know exactly what it was, he couldn’t precisely articulate it, but he knew he had to find That Sound.

Years of struggle, of promises and pawnshops, of dance band sideman jobs and pit orchestra engagements came to a climax one day during a rehearsal for a new opening engagement in Boston. His lead trumpet – the traditional lead instrument in a 1940s dance band – smacked his mouthpiece into his lip and cut it wide open. Opening night at a new venue, and his star player was incapacitated. Now what?

Turns out it was a happy accident. With a sudden flash of insight – and to the consternation and utter confusion of everyone around him – Glenn had one of the band’s clarinetists take the lead part. And there it was. That sound. The curtain was drawn. The music began. And the crowd roared.

The pursuit of a vision, unabated, that thoroughly differentiated one band from the others, much the same way innovative operations differentiate one business process from all the others. What makes greatness is the relentless pursuit of a vision. All others be damned!

Sixty-five years later, his music is still some of the most recognizable in the world. Wouldn’t it be something if our business leaders, too, so relentlessly pursued their visions? If they were so consumed with a passion for what they believed was a better way, a superior product or a greater value that they would devote their lives to its fruition? That’s the Vision Thing so desperately lacking from so many of today’s enterprises. That’s the Vision Thing that drives business process management and the very idea of continuous improvement that underlies it. General Electric. Microsoft. Google. Southwest Airlines. Progressive Insurance. You can count the passionate ones on one or two hands. Want a real competitive advantage? Get inspired!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Meeting for the Sake of Meeting

How many of us suffer through weekly status meetings, update meetings, meetings about what meetings we should be having? A perfect example of confusing activity with accomplishment is the meeting for meeting’s sake. What I mean by that (if it’s not already clear) is when a scheduled meeting is held simply because it’s a regularly scheduled meeting. These can be colossal wastes of time and talent. A related result of these meetings for participants is a feeling of being busy, of working when, in fact, no real work is getting done. Activity without accomplishment.

Status meetings in particular are dinosaurs, since today’s management information and business intelligence platforms provide great visibility and negate the need for many of these inane get-togethers. BPM systems provide incredibly granular information about specific activities, individual performance, process outputs, etc. The foundations of BPM (the discipline, not the technology) call for clearly established objectives, uniform workflow, extensive documentation – all components of any well-managed organization. The vision is established, the methodology is instilled, the marching orders are given and the troops go to work. The application of management best practices is anathema to meeting after meeting after meeting to establish policies or get status reports.

To be sure, sometimes we need to have meetings, and sometimes we need to have many. I’ve shepherded wayward projects by calling for sunrise (first thing in the morning) and sunset (last thing at night) meetings to establish with a given team what will be accomplished today, and what was accomplished today. These meetings, however, are designed to be temporary interventions to get derailed projects back on track.

Look at your calendar and see how many pre-scheduled meetings there are. Think about what really gets accomplished at each of them. Think about how attending these meetings takes you out of flow, as your day-to-day activities are interrupted and getting back into the groove wastes another hour of your day.

To be a real competitor, the principles of good management must rule. Meetings for the sake of meeting suck the life right out of your workforce and your business. Meet when you must, set an agenda, distribute to all participants at least an hour before the meeting, provide some sort of value or learning and always, always, have take aways for everyone at the table.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Culture Counts

I’ve written a little bit on this in the past, though recent experience causes me to revisit the topic. When working with clients, the part of my introductory presentation at which executives’ eyes inevitably glaze over is when I begin to speak about culture. “Who cares about culture – we need to fix our processes!” is the non-verbal transmission I tend to get from their often puzzled looks.

Culture has everything to do with process performance. It’s the glue that binds people in their pursuit of common goals. Talented people who are bad cultural fits with an organization are more disruptive than productive. Mediocre performers who are overtly aligned with the culture in which they work are worth investing in. The difficult question company leadership must ask and answer with brutal honesty when evaluating employees and their impact on process performance is “Are you with us or not?” If not, politely show them the door.

That said, cultures come in all shapes and sizes, and are popularly and conveniently described as being characterized by collaboration, cultivation, control or competence. To be sure, no single organization will fit neatly into one category, however it is more often than not the case that an organization is demonstrably dominant in one over the others.

A collaboration culture can be described by the terms synergy, equality, unity and involvement. Participants in a collaboration culture are driven by the need for affiliation.

A cultivation culture can be described by the terms growth, development, commitment, creativity, purpose and subjectivity. Participants are driven by a need to realize potential.

A control culture is best described by the terms certainty, systemization, objectivity, stability, standardization and predictability. Participants are driven by the need for power and security.

A competence culture exhibits professionalism, meritocracy, continuous improvement, accuracy and autonomy. Its participants are driven by the need for achievement.

Understanding the dominant culture type of an organization is a critical underpinning of any process improvement initiative. Just as individual motivations need to be understood in order to reinforce good work habits, the culture in which workers operate needs to be understood as it bears significant influence over the means by which they are collectively motivated to fulfill the larger goals of the organization.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Food Foibles

The deli display case was overstuffed with the day’s bounty, ready for the masses to descend as lunchtime approached: Grilled salmon on focaccia, roasted peppers, gourmet meatloaf – a veritable feast for the eyes. The bread bins, off to the right in the corner, were well-stocked with just about every type of bread and roll you could imagine. My usual request, a tuna on white bread with tomato, wouldn’t do today. The delicacies beckoned, and so I thought I’d go for the grilled chicken breast, beautifully stacked on a plate in the display case, dripping with barbeque sauce. I dutifully took a number from the dispenser and waited impatiently to give the woman behind the counter my order.

“Number six!” came the call, and like some lucky lottery winner I waved my ticket in the air to indicate that I was next. “I’ll have the barbequed chicken breast on a roll with tomato, please,” I declared, mouth watering. “And can you heat up the chicken, please?”

“Excuse me?” asked the woman behind the counter quizzically, a departure from her usual welcoming wave and big smile. “The chicken, here,” I said, motioning toward the stack of chicken breasts labeled $3.99 each. “I’ll have one of those on a poppy seed roll with tomato, please.”

“I don’t think we can do that, sir. Let me ask,” said the woman, heading through the double swinging doors to the kitchen as she spoke, quickly returning with three of her colleagues. “This gentleman here, he wants the chicken breasts, on a roll. Can we do that?” she asked, furrowing her brow as she cocked her head toward her apparent supervisor and the two other counterpersons who had caucused to discuss my lunch. “I don’t think so,” said the supervisor, who then asked me, somewhat incredulously, “What exactly do you want?”

“The chicken breasts, the barbequed ones, here,” I said, pointing. “On a roll with tomato.”

“Oh, yeah, we can’t do that, sir. You’ll have to buy the chicken breast and pay for a sandwich. So it’s $3.99 for the chicken breast, and $5.99 for a sandwich.”

“So it’ll cost me ten dollars for the sandwich I want? Why don’t I just buy a roll for fifty cents, and a chicken breast for $3.99, then?”

“Well, you could do that, too. That’s your choice,” replied the supervisor.

“But you won’t make it for me?” I asked, in as nice a way as possible. “No sir, not unless you want to pay for the chicken and a sandwich.”

“OK, thanks,” I said, now running late, having spent the past ten minutes negotiating.

I had the lady behind the counter wrap me up one barbequed chicken cutlet, walked over to the bread bin, grabbed a roll and made my way to the checkout. Total, $4.49.

What’s the process management lesson here?

First off, had they sold me the sandwich in the first place, I would have been out of there in five minutes instead of fifteen. Several workers were sidetracked for several minutes trying to figure out how to placate me but were unable to. Lots of wasted time.

Second, the sandwich would have cost $5.99, which I would have gladly paid. Instead, the store got just $4.49 from me – 25% less than they could have easily realized. Lost revenue.

Third, the woman behind the counter was not properly empowered to make a simple decision, and as a result had to escalate the “issue” to a supervisor who conferred with several other workers who, to the chagrin of others waiting during this busy lunch period, were unable to perform any other work. Bottleneck.

Finally, they failed to satisfy their customer. My needs were secondary to the “rules,” which in this case were unnecessarily constraining, and as such I’ll think twice about going back there. Poor customer service.

Wasted time (i.e., added expense), lost revenue, a process bottleneck and a dissatisfied customer, all the result of a poor process. Multiply that by the number of customers similarly frustrated by similar "issues" during any given day, week, month, year and well, you get the idea.

I headed back to the office, threw the chicken into the microwave in the break room, placed it on the roll, and got back to work. And it was delicious.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Value of Horizontal Expertise

There seems to be an increasing emphasis on the importance of specialists – those people who’ve toiled for years in a particular industry, who know it inside and out, who have deep domain knowledge in some very specific areas of operations. Vertical expertise rules, experts abound. Technological advances only add fuel to the fire, as new applications require ever-greater levels of learning and understanding as they perform increasingly specific functions. In the insurance world, actuaries develop pricing models, underwriters determine who’s insurable, agents drive premium dollars, claims adjusters evaluate losses and all of these functions work together like some megalithic machine, often to the chagrin of the insured. Of course, each “discipline” has its evangelists, and there’s an ongoing fight for dominance, each “expert” convinced that his or her area of expertise is the single most critical link in the insurance value chain. Therein lies the benefit – and challenge – of intensive horizontal expertise; the pieces are best put together through the work of a generalist.

By that I mean someone with a solid enough understanding of the various disciplines that comprise insurance operations (i.e., ”breadth of knowledge”), but a much deeper understanding of (a) how to extract efficiencies from each area of operations; (b) how to manage the lateral organization, or the “white space” on the org chart; and (c) how to get all of those pieces functioning well together. This horizontal expertise is often overlooked, yet it’s the manager who’s charged with these coordinating efforts who is most like the orchestra conductor, a leader reading from a common score that presents the individual parts of the various players that, taken individually, might amount to nothing more than a few sour notes played in odd time.

To be sure, the successful orchestra conductor has almost always mastered at least one instrument and usually has a grasp of – and often the ability to play well – many others. Likewise, the effective executive who assembles and manages groups of individuals engaged in disparate but related functions has often excelled in one area, but understands well all of the working parts of the organization, from sales and marketing, to product development, operations, and administration – not to mention the finer points of motivation, team building and many other “soft” skills.

During his tenure as CEO of GE, Jack Welch was the quintessential generalist. He was masterful in his management of not only the multiple functions that make up an organization, but of multiple lines of business in far-flung regions of the world, from chemicals to jet engines, from television sets to refrigerators, in the Americas, in Europe, in Asia. Welch earned a doctorate in chemical engineering, but his real genius came through when he was given the opportunity to conduct the orchestra. His vertical expertise earned him about $80,000 a year in 2007 dollars; his horizontal expertise made him a billionaire.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Culture Code

I recently read with interest a new book, The Culture Code, by Clotaire Rapaille. Dr. Rapaille, a cultural anthropolgist, is at least partly responsible for several major marketing breakthroughs, helping to rejuvenate struggling product lines with innovative marketing angles. His approach to discovering the tastes of a particular market segment is most unusual. Rather than utilizing the typical “focus group” approach – where samples of prospective consumers review and opine on their experiences with or impressions of a particular product – Rapaille applies some real science. He uses “triune brain theory” – where study participants are led through three one-hour sessions, each dealing with a different “third” of the brain. The first session deals with purely logical impressions, and thus involves the cerebral cortex. Impressions on this level are generally practical, though, according to Dr. Rapaille, not by themselves good predictors of a product’s success. The next hour-long session deals with the emotions attached to the product or service, involving the brain’s limbic system. Impressions using techniques to access this part of the brain are apparently poor predictors as well. Rather, it’s the third part of the brain, the “reptilian” brain, that governs instincts imprinted (usually) at a very young age and provides what Rapaille terms the “code” for a particular product or service. Uncover that code and – voila! – you have the key to marketing a product or service. One example given was the marketing of Jeep in America. Working with a study group, his discovered the “code” for Jeep to Americans was “horse” – as there was a strong instinctive association between Jeeps and riding free in the West. One small modification to the Jeep – changing the square headlights to round (since horses have round eyes) – and product sales soared. Sounds crazy. But 50 of the Fortune 100 rely heavily on this man (and pay him handsomely) to help them to identify the “hot buttons” that drive sales. So, you must be thinking, what does this have to do with business process management?

Rapaille’s approach is simply a sophisticated change management technique. When dealing with consumer products, by unlocking the “code,” product modifications can be made to reflect that code and, more often than not, product sales respond favorably; consumers react (i.e., change their behavior) by purchasing the product. Similarly, since it's incumbent upon anyone undertaking a BPM initiative to foster change among those who are asked to participate, uncovering the key to their baser motivations - the "code" for "selling" a particular change initiative - should prove useful. Why? Years-long work habits (read: imprints) often have to be undone. New technologies have to be mastered. Roles are frequently re-assigned and responsibilities shift as policies have to be re-written to reflect the new approach to work. The central challenge is selling the idea to those who must embrace the new way.

Applying Rapaille’s logic (and experience), one would do well to try to discover the “code” that amplifies process participants’ enthusiasm for embracing change. Traditional approaches to change management range from enticement (“if you do this you’ll be rewarded”) to threat (“if you don’t do this you’ll be fired”). The “three brain” approach of Dr. Rapaille provides a subtlety that eliminates the need to continually escalate change efforts and obviates the need for finesse in understanding those things that truly motivate a workforce.

Where to begin? The logical (“we’ll save money using this approach and you’ll get a bigger bonus”) and emotional arguments (“I know you’re good enough to do this and it’ll be a real feather in your cap when you get it done”) are typical but do often seem to fall short. Perhaps adding a third component, an instinctive one (promoting survival, freedom, connectedness, significance, etc.) is what will ultimately provide the key to consistently successful change initiatives.