Monday, 4 June 2007

BPM: When Management Take the Lead

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Most observers of Business Process Management agree that to really make the changes required for an organization to see the full benefits BPM can bring the top management team need to take the lead. There are many tales of people dreaming of getting senior management engaged. For one such organization those dreams came true. They like many of you had organized a BPM presentation and workshop to introduce the subject, the speaker was organized and the audience size was agreed, 30 people for the presentation and 15 for the workshop. Then the CEO agreed to send an email out to potential attendees and this was the result;

"As you are aware I am sponsoring the presentation "Why BPM?.. and Why BPM for Us?" The reason I am doing this is my belief that the difference between good and great companies is the systems which are driving them. I believe that the presentation and workshop that follow will give all of us an insight into the management techniques used to analyze and optimize our business processes. As managers this should be a fundamental part of what we do everyday. The reality though is that we get bogged down in day to day details and do not detach ourselves enough to look at the reasons why we do things the way we do them and consider doing them differently. We do not manage business processes, we let the processes manage us.

I am hoping that this presentation will be an eye opener in this area. I am also hoping to increase awareness as well as give you a view on how as a company we want to take our management to a higher level by instilling BPM as a core activity and competence within the business.

I appreciate your commitment to attend and your further commitment to go through the change process which BPM can deliver."

Imagine then if your own BPM initiative was heralded by an announcement like this. But even if it was do you think that the top 150 managers and executives would give up a day of their time, would the CEO be in it for the entire day to listen learn and laugh along with everyone else?

In this case the message was sent by Sayga CEO Ihab Latif to his management team. The result, as you can see from the picture here, was the result. (Taken during my recent trip to Sudan). Not just the top team of the Sayga decided to come along, but so did the top team of their parent company and many of their other subsidiaries. 150 of DAL Group's top management assembled for the day and even agreed to switch their phones off! The event was a momentous occasion for it turns out to be the first time that such a gathering has occurred at the company, and the topic that they were so keen to learn about was BPM and process improvement. What a signal it sent out to the rest of the organization. Management was not leading with words, but was leading by example.

As anyone who has consulted in the BPM arena will tell you this was the opportunity of a lifetime, and boy I knew the pressure was on me to deliver for the CEO and his BPM team who had invited me and to ensure that I fired the group up with the same passion for BPM as Ihab had shown.

There can be no mistaking the vision and foresight of a CEO like Ihab Latif. Consider you own organization and the challenges you may face in getting BPM up on the agenda of top management. How much harder would it be if your company's profits were still growing nicely and you were in the enviable position of having close to a 70% market share. For this is the situation in which Ihab has decided that the time is right for BPM. In conversation with him he explained to me "It is no good waiting until we are on the way down, it is while we are on the top of our game that we need to make the changes. For at that point we still have the time and resources to make sensible, rational choices, rather than having to rush into things in the vain hope that it can save us after the fact." A brave man and a true visionary.

Brave, because we all know it is hard to persuade people of the need for change when all appears to be going well. Visionary, because as well we all know there are all too few CEO's that are willing to both recognize and publicly do something about it.

Despite what may be seen from the array of papers being shown by part of the audience here. I am happy to report that as the day wound down the Sayga and DAL Management teams were indeed all back on the same page. They are a company that I will be watching for in the future, as the feedback at the end was very much, what can we do to help and what are the steps we need to take in order to make sure that we follow up in an effective and timely manner.

Now I can't speak for you, but for me, that is the feedback that tells you that you have really made a difference and got them to "Think Differently"

A few days later we held the two day process workshop for the 15 people, well we thought it would be 15! In the end we were physically turning away people as the number grew to 30. The experiences of that workshop and the details of how some of the follow up is being managed is the subject for another article.

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