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What is the difference between lean and BPM?

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A question suggested by Emiel Kelly, who said, "Lean is very hot (read hype) here in Holland.  And a lot of companies see it as completely different from BPM." So what is the difference between lean and BPM?

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  • I can't say much about the differences but I see more the communalities in disregard of customer outcomes in particular and of relationships in general. In short, both have a complete blind spot as to what essentially makes up 'social' and creates value beyond 'process optimization'. But it's probably only a matter of time till something like 'Social Lean' will crop up in another (futile) attempt to square the circle.

  • Lean is one approach to look at a process and improve it. Primarily it is focused on reducing overall cycle time, which usually drives out cost. How? By focusing on waste of time and waste of resources.

    Lean has the advantage of being well-defined and somewhat bottom-up. BPM is in many ways the opposite. :-) Historically Lean has been most prevalent in tangible, straightforward manufacturing processes.

    To integrate Lean with BPM, I position BPM as an overall management and organizational approach. Lean as a process improvement technique fits nicely within a BPM umbrella, if you can avoid the religious battles.

  • I think of BPM as having three parts: philosphy, toolset, and methodology (or approach). BPM is a management philosophy promoting visibility, control and compliance across all phases of work. BPM is also a suite of tools for defining, designing, implementing and optimizing dynamic business applications. In order to implement the toolset correctly, you need to follow a proven methodology as well as have the backing of management (philosphy) to be successful.

    Lean is one methodology based on pricinciples of improving the efficiency (reducing waste) and effectiveness (increasing speed, agility) of business resources.

    Whether you use Lean, Six Sigma, Agile or something else to implement BPM, you still need to ensure that you capture the following: flows, business rules (roles, responsibilities, policies, procedures, routing, escalations, deadlines, notifications, etc) governing each activity (human and system) of each flow, integration touchpoints, data and documents to be collected/passed/reviewed/approved, form design and layout for capturing data, reports, and user interface layout.

    I've seen Lean and Agile followed very successfully. I've also seenn both fail miserably becuase the requirements were not gathered completely, scope changed and was not managed well, management got distracted so the philosophy was not inculcated or mandated, and/or resources (people) were not adequately trained or experienced.

    That last point is key. People matter. Who cares what tool you are using or approach you are taking. If the people on your team are inadequately trained, experienced, coached and supported, you will fail to maximize your investment in BPM.

    I believe in BPM. But success only comes when all ingredients work together and the chef stays constantly involved.

  • I would to bring some clarification before everyone start to talk about complexity and complex.

    Lean is a technique to improve business process, like Theory of Constraints, like Six sigma.

    BPM is not a technique to improve a process, it is a management method to improve business processes. When a process must be improved it's necessary to choose what is the best technique do it (it can be Lean or ReEngineering). Then the technique can have it's own method of deployment.

  • APQC's view on BPM is that it's a way of looking at and managing business processes. We've developed a simple model called the "Seven Tenets of Process Management" that sort of encapsulate the domains of process management. "Lean" is but one tactic in the greater scope of BPM.

    Our seven tenets are: strategic alignment, process models, change management, governance, performance and maturity, process improvement, and tools and technology.

    Lean fits in with the "process improvement" tenet, along with 6 sigma and other process improvement tools.

  • I am more than convinced about the fact that Business Process Management must lead the way – and Lean should adapt! However, the Lean evangelist probably won´t agree…!

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