Operational effectiveness in the management of work requires an understanding of the parameters that are key to an industry area, followed by selection of situation-appropriate and context-appropriate management methodologies and tool set selection, in that order.
Many organizations learn of a particular management approach, purchase a set of tools and never get around to clearly defining a corporate strategy. The difficulty here is “if you don’t know where you are going, you won’t know if, as, and when you get there”.
There is a big difference between the tools required to effectively manage a once-off construction project (e.g. building a large chemical plant) compared to orchestrating the construction of a series of residential houses. In one case the focus is on projecting schedule and cost overruns whereas in the other the focus is on streamlining tasks. The methodology of choice for both is Critical Path Method (CPM).
Maintenance, repair and overhaul of rotary-wing aircraft on the other hand requires an Adaptive Case Management (ACM) environment with powerful decision-support tools and good interfacing with 3rd party inventory control systems.
For work that is highly automated, but with a need for some flexibility in the performance of work, the environment of choice is Business Process Management (BPM).
It’s fairly easy to rationalize the need for A+B+C (Adaptive Case Management, Business Process Management and Critical Path Method) under a single umbrella, with the proviso that an environment that is capable of supporting this should not be presented to customers as an “integrated” environment if the particular environment, in fact, does not seamlessly integrate these.
The way to rationalize the value of an ACM/BPM/CPM environment is to understand that different organizations have different needs and even carry out similar work in different ways. A small machine shop may have one operator who performs several steps along what would be a linked set of steps in a larger machine shop where work is divided up by functional unit.
In healthcare, the difference between a general medical practice and a behavioral healthcare practice is dramatic, yet both involve patient management. In one case, you are likely to see twenty people in the waiting room, all with 10:00 AM appointments, whereas in a behavioral healthcare practice, you see only a few people, each with a very specific appointment time.
Given an environment that is adaptable to an organization’s needs, it is pointless to try to standardize workflows – each organization will have spent years evolving a specific set of “best practices” that give that organization its competitive advantage. Users reasonably want to see their workflows posting forms they are familiar with.
Any software “solution” that requires an organization re-structure itself because “ . . . the software needs things done this way/that way” is no solution at all. (e.g. one-size-fits-all solutions really end up fitting no one).
The usual vendor response to a statement from a prospective customer that they would like to use “their” workflows and “their” forms is an offer to “customize” the software. If the prospective customer agrees to this, they have just boarded the vendor’s “gravy train” and might as well, at this stage, take an equity position in the vendor’s company.
Things do not have to end up this way.
There are solution sets that allow organizations to introduce software that allows functional unit staff to document, improve, implement and own and manage their workflows posting their forms, all at a simplified User Interface.
The trick, of course, is to wade through the 100+ products that are on the market to find one that has the capabilities just described.
Stay tuned for “Consultants really are the good guys”.