Sustaining Process Excellence: Karate or Jiu Jitsu?

When it comes to optimizing any process over the long haul, anything short of complete automation pretty much leaves the door open to backsliding – otherwise known as “reverting back to old behaviour. The bane of many a COO’s existences of course. I’m a sucker for analogies, I see them around every corner. So allow me to share my thinking here. In martial arts, the age-old debate of technique versus strength has always plagued its practitioners. While Karate and Jiu-Jitsu are both martial arts, their Modus operandi is quite different. A Karate practitioner applies force directly and often, whilst Jiu-Jitsu emphasizes the effectiveness of proper technique over strength.

When I think of organisations and their quest for Process Excellence, I often feel that they take a “karate” like approach to process optimization. There’s a lot of effort expended – both in terms of money and time – to increase competitiveness, to improve customer experience, ensure compliance, and of course to squeeze every last red cent of efficiency out of a process. Then once the process has been, supposedly, optimised for good the band of “Process Ninja’s” move on to their next business process destined for “global” optimisation. However, hand on heart, how often are these optimised processes efficiently monitored moving forward, how often is a measurement on success based on someone’s opinion that it “just feels better”. Low and Behold, before you know it, something goes off the rails or someone leaves the organisation, and once again you’re expending a lot of energy (aka more money and time) to ensure process execution efficiency.

But what if the brute-force karate technique of beating process execution into submission could be avoided altogether? Can’t we adopt a “Jiu-Jitsu” philosophy here? In the context of optimization sustainability, process monitoring leverages daily process execution to improve itself. Instead of waiting for the symptoms of broken processes to surface and launch yet another effort to isolate and fix them – we catch deviations as they occur and correct them, building on the momentum of our earlier improvement initiatives. Intelligent Process Mining enables your organization to transition from Karate-style to the Jiu-Jitsu-like methods introduced by automatic process execution monitoring & alerting. This powerful technique dramatically reduces the organizational effort required to sustain process excellence by introducing the new ability to spot deviations as they occur (and react), rather than wait for the symptoms of dysfunction to make themselves known.

If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that the vast majority of people want things to work the way they should. Much of the time when a process isn’t executing as expected, lack of end-to-end process visibility is a key contributing factor. When execution does go wrong, or a process is out of compliance, how do you spot it quickly, and notify staff to take corrective action? Or is it more likely you see the symptoms well after the fact –  perhaps even months later in a quarterly report/review? Kinda’ betting I can predict the answer to that, regardless of how many six-sigma black-belts your fielding on the team.

Enter Intelligent process mining – your virtual Jiu Jitsu “process” sensei. Introducing the defensive art of process monitoring and alerting in your organization makes it far easier to achieve sustainable process excellence over the long haul. I doubt anyone would disagree this premise – however getting there is a bit of where the “rubber meets the road” in process mining. Anyone can manually monitor a screen occasionally, but it’s not really a practical approach. One of the hallmarks of Intelligent Process Mining is a combination of data organization and something called “protocol analysis”. Here’s a specific example: any process mining application can organize event-related data into ‘discovery visualizations’, typically displayed thru a diagram called a Process Schema which can be used to monitor process execution. But it’s harder to compare data sets organized that way against rules or defined protocols to automatically identify or isolate bad processes, time delays, out of order steps, unusual task execution or excessive repetitive steps. If we take a step back and organize our data into a series of timelines, we can more easily apply a specialized query tool called protocol analysis that helps us easily search for and pre-define specific scenarios that we want to be notified of. Layer alerting functionality into this mix and we’ve adopted a very effective defensive posture in our fight for process excellence.

Let’s face it, the concept of monitoring and alerting is nothing new in and of itself. What is new is the ability (for the first time) to apply it end-to-end in a process environment that includes people, can be infinitely variable, and spans multiple IT systems. All that using a balanced approach with ease and simplicity of effort. Process intelligence “Jiu-Jitsu” is a natural outgrowth of the digital transformation sweeping our economy, and I guarantee that it’s easier on your resources and your pocketbook than karate will ever be.

In my next entry, we’re going to switch gears a bit and explore how intelligent process mining plays well in the sandbox with robotic process automation and BPM/BI solutions.

About the author

Joseph Rayfield is an accomplished business professional with a proven domestic and international track record of delivery in aggressive growth environments. Joe has an extensive background in technology – ranging from Data & Hosting networks through to Enterprise SaaS Software Solutions, most recently spending time focusing on Business Process and Business Intelligence solutions, providing value for Enterprise customers and partners. Joe has worked in senior management positions in EMEA, Asia Pacific and the US – currently focusing on Global Business Development for TimelinePI.

May 1, 2018