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My BPM prayer for 2013

Blog: Process transformation - interventions for meaningful change

Prayer? No, I am not religious. But in the coming months there will be the lot of BPM prediction lists from the various blogs. Always fun to read. Take a basket, throw in the current buzzwords (social, big data, cloud), mix with some insights and publish.
I wanted to take another approach this year. Not so much what I expect to happen, but more what I really hope to happen. Comments welcome! And an early: happy holidays.

Design for experience
I do processes, because for me it’s one of the core interventions to focus on value. And I love that value is getting a broader sense in BPM. Nut just the end product, or efficiency, speed. But the realization that people that want a service are complete whole people, that experience interactions. And that hope that these experiences are positive, helpful. So, I pray that we design for positive experience. Because there are still quite some bad experiences out there.
And I hope that we don’t pidgeonhole people in “customer”, “user” or worse “some abstract entity that submits data, and is send the product”, but as whole people.
I would love to see more psychology and antropologhy enter the field of BPM.

Design for meaning and motivation
I also do processes, because for me it’s one of the core interventions to create meaningful workplaces. Workplaces should be rewarding, educating, fun, places for growth. Often they are not. Face it, we all spent major parts of our lives in workplaces. Valuable life time that we can spent only once. And the deeper needs that we have are often not well understood or addressed.
The machine-like concepts behind many of the BPM-thinking stiffle our ability to design for meaning and motivation. KPI’s motivating? Come on. Process models that thrill us to all change? Come on.
I would love to see new language appear on concepts in BPM around motivation, inspiration. How to design processes, that support people to do the things they like.

Co-create, on staying out of the silo
Be honest, ever found yourself in an office, cubicle, some remote place, far away from the complexity of the workplace? In front of your screen, with the assignment to “improve the process”. And busy clicking in some tool, making a beautiful process-diagram, that is just going to awe the manager to the max? Stop. You are living in a dream. It’s never going to fly.
Go to the complexity. Dive in. Be shy, scared, but still go on. Talk to the people. Involve. Ask. And let them decide on what the improved process is. Be the facilitator. Influence. Help them to see new possibilities. Even better: let them see you even better possibilities. Be confused. Learn.
I am reading a beautiful book on Organization Development (and it’s history). This is not new – this co-creation stuff has been there for decades. But we all, personally, have to give up the illusion that we can sit there, in our silo, and create perfect solutions.

Real working software, as opposed to ACM/BPM battles
A lot of discussions the last years on ACM/BPM. Don’t get me wrong, I learn a lot of the likes of Max Pucher et al. Insights in complexity of work. Of people interaction. And let’s make things simple: things are never simple. Any piece of software will be based on an abstraction of the complexity of work & interaction. Thus will have it’s limits. And while the discussions on the views and concepts behind this abstraction are valuable, let’s not forget that in the end, the value is in the eye of the beholder: the actual users. And the typical manager/user I speak, does not really care for these abstract discussions. They want software that supports their work. Not perfect, but good enough. Real working software that is, not abstractions. So let’s go out there, make it work, and share the lessons on what (not) worked, not the rants.

On economic crisis, carreer perspective and ethics
In the BPM automation projects I am involved in, the patterns are quite simple: use BPM automation to cut cost, cut cost, cut cost, and add some quality and flexibility please. In the labour-intensive service processes I am involved in, this means cutting work. Using straight through processing and performance optimizing tools to make people more productive, and thus more people redundant.
Technology might be neutral, applying it is not. BPM automation projects have real effects on real people: typically, I see major cuts in lower educated administrative workers. And it worries me. Sure, from a business case perspective we understand. From a public services perspective also: we all want to have lower prices, and more effect from our taxpay. But the cause-effect is simple: apply BPM automation, fire people. And I wonder: if all organizations will be doing BPM automation, what work will be left for these people? What can society offer? Are we growing towards a society in which we have highly oiled, well functioning small units of service delivery, with highly paid managers, knowledge workers and IT-staff? The upper class? And the rest trying hard to make ends meet?
We need a vision on future work. On the ethics of BPM automation. And on meaning & dignity & perspective of the “lower” workforce.

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