We use cookies and other similar technologies (Cookies) to enhance your experience and to provide you with relevant content and ads. By using our website, you are agreeing to the use of Cookies. You can change your settings at any time. Cookie Policy.
Start a Discussion

What does it mean to 'manage by process,' and is this what every company should strive for?

Vote 0 Votes
What does it mean to "manage by process?" Is this what every company should strive for?

19 Replies

| Add a Reply
  • Well if an organisation does not want to manage what works get done and how, then the chances are that they will fail in the long term. Assuming that is that the main alternative is simply management by money. Apple seem to be doing pretty well and Johnny Ives was quoted recently as saying "We don't do it for the money" but went on to suggest that if we design great products, market them well and deliver them effectively we will continue to make money - seems a pretty good example of managing by process to me.

    As to the forst part of your question what does it mean to manage by process, I would suggest that it means we should focus on the how things happen and make sure that we are building and managing an engine that can produce repeatable results. How often do we use words like innovators or entrepreneurs to describe people or companies that do things as a one off?

    So yes we should manage by process and yes this is what businesses should strive for. If we focus on doing the right things we are less likely to suffer from short term thinking ergo Public company CEO's who are only focused on next years bonus shares, and will better reward those who build engines of growth for the long term benefit of themselves and by extension the world economy

  • Simple answer: managing by process means that the organization depends on its processes, not the tribal knowledge of its people to:
    a) get real work done at the individual level,
    b) to ensure consistency of operations across disparate organizational structures,
    c) enable value creation by providing a structure against which work can be consistently measured.

    Not all organizations should aim for the goal of managing by process. Some organizations are economically infeasible when they apply the rigor required to manage by process: typically these are very small organizations where the cost of applying the process management rigor is greater than the value gained.

    • user-pic

      I totally agree with you. But, do not forget that a new good idea creates a successful business. Good process management in not enough to keep an old business "riding the wave".

  • It means that the organization has a process center of excellence with 20 specialists who or modelling all the organizations' processes (in BPMN) and publishing these on the intranet. They call themselves visio-therapists and they write down a lot of process improvement ideas on the walls based on all kind of academic research and process simulations. Of course they are coached by a self proclaimed bpm guru.

    But as a real process managing company they know they must be customer centric, so that is why they use a Document Management System to handle all their cases.

    2 people on the IT department are fully dedicated to creating queries on top of this DMS to support all department managers with valuable information like average throughput time and utilization rate of the people in their department.

    Very Important are the compliance officers who are responsible for making the auditors believe they are compliant.

    And last but not least, 15 enthusiastic employees are attending a 18 day Lean training to become black belt because every self respecting process managing company has a lean project or two.

    And of course they all read the Ebizq forum.

    • You're almost as cynical as I am.....almost....but not quite ;)

    • user-pic

      Hilarious - and, sadly, this approach to 'management by process' seems quite common to me. I think this sarcastic definition of management by process is what actually occurs when companies 'manage by process' in a vacuum, disconnected from the most important goals of a company and other key practices that support a company's strategy.

      I don't think anyone can or would argue that process is irrelevant in delivering results and outcomes that matter to customers, and that a structured approach to strengthening the right process' ability to do so (especially with the aid of enabling technologies) isn't worthwhile when implemented pragmatically. However, (to quote Derek Miers), such a practice is 'not a silver bullet, but a golden gun' - and the success of it will probably vary depending on things like who's holding the gun, how you aim it, where you aim it and why you aim it. I think the success of the approach also depends how well integrated it is into those other important practices like product management, marketing, supply chain, etc.

      Speaking of Apple, this integration capability happens to be one of the lesser discussed but important aspects of Apple's success as I learned from a recent, fabulous video podcast called "Secrets at Apple's Core" from Adam Lashinsky at the Stanford Enterprise Thought Leaders Lecture Series. Lots of gems in this one. I'll share it here. Enjoy.


      "Adam Lashinsky, Fortune senior editor-at-large, shares an insider look at Apple, one of the world's most iconic and secretive companies. Based on his research into the technology giant's internal processes and approaches to leadership and building products, Lashinsky offers insights and surprises from his book, Inside Apple: How America's Most Admired--and Secretive--Company Really Works."

  • If only more BPM vendors were managed by process like Apple is then we'd have a lot better BPMS. I think the Johnny Ives article has been taken a little out of context here: Apple is driven by innovation and product design, ideas are what create the spark internally, not process. In fact, Ives goes on to say "This was a different approach from other attempts to turn the company around, which had focused first and foremost on cost savings and revenue generation."
    Funnily enough, most of BPM seem to point to cost savings and revenue generation as a strategic goal to aim for. Something to bear in mind, maybe the industry itself needs a Johnny Ives.

    But back to the question. And I'll address the second point first: No, we shouldn't strive to be managed by process. That's like applying a straighjacket to an octopus. Conventional BPM is too constraining, right angled and wrapped up with governance.

    Mark misses a point where he mentions one-offs: everything was a one-off to begin with, it's making sure that the inspiration that created the product or service isn't killed off by trying to make it a repeatable process. Creativity is a spark, and every spark is different.

    What does it mean to manage by process ?
    It means transparency and visibility. And I wish it would mean the death of organisational hierarchy if it was applied correctly.

    • Thanks Theo, I would suggest that creativity is actually a process too!. Sorry that you think the Apple parallel is out of focus, how about the fact that Henry Ford too set out with a focus on a process for providing transport, he had a clear purpose and then thought about the processes, then the money came.

      Sorry if anything I wrote was allied to specific BPM or BPMS, I was merely answering the questions about managing by process. Which I still maintain is a good thing, it does not have to have large documentation overhead and it does not have to have automation, but if you don't manage what and how you do what you do then perhaps the alternative is chaos?

      Perhaps Theo there is confusion between process and procedure. I would agree that creativity can be killed off my procedures, but cannot imagine how having a process can possibly impact inspiration or creativity, it may actually help produce more.

      • Thanks Mark, I'll accept that creativity is a type process, probably more aligned with ACM/ DCM than 'standard' BPM as we know it, it's unstructured. And having no structure doesn't necessarily mean chaos.

        Ah, process can indeed impact inspiration and creativity, I wrote an article a while ago around Valve and their Cabal:


        Some self-organising or self-aligning processes and structures can support organisations without the need for business process chaos. Some, not all. But in my view in removing functional silos we need to give a little trust back to the people. They may actually surprise you.

        • Thanks Theo, I think we are at cross purposes. I am not suggesting that we need BPM, ACM, DCM or any other acronym. But the question was should be mange by process to which I still say resoundingly yes.

          I agree also that one can self-organise or self-align, as long as one is clear about what the required outputs are and what the inputs being provided are, thus in my view that makes it a process. The confusion comes as I said before when one mixes the term process with the term procedure. If one uses that term then I agree with most of what you say in both cases, as I agree that that it would force too much structure and rigour where none is required.

          Believe me when I say that even something as simple as getting dressed in the morning uses a process, but one that each of us applies differently and hopefully without too much conscious thought about. Life would be pretty poor if we all had to do the right leg before the left or dress the top half before the bottom half! When all that really matters is that we are dressed at an appropriate time in appropriate clothing for our needs. In the case of your creative people that may mean the looking a little different from teh city gents :-) but all using the same process.

  • As said above several times, processes are unfortunately seen often as rules,procedures or standardized (six sigma) ways of working; you could call it workflow style BPM.

    Useful for some processes, but that is not the core of managing by process to me.

    Every company has processes at this moment, but some use them better than others. So using a process is what counts.

    Using a process means that you know what result a process has to deliver, but not necessarily staring blind on the path towards that result.

    Bringing process as 'these are the rules' is killing for the mentioned creativity and involvement.

    So what I think is never a waste is being clear about your processes. I would call this a process landscape.

    Actually this is being clear about the useful results (products or services) you have to deliver as an organization.

    And yes, you probably need a process for that to deliver the result and....deliver it as promised (time quality, costs, etc).

    And then you come to the fact that, in my opinion, every process is unique. Some indeed are straight-through workflow style and can be managed that way.

    Other processes are more case management style and need creative people and up to date information to define the right path.

    So every process has it's unique characteristics. So treating them all the same makes no sense and doesn't make you an organization that is managing (well) by process.

    So I never make process maps, I make process characteristics maps.

    So an organization that is really process aware knows what are the characteristics of it's processes and can than decide how tight it must be managed and how it must be facilitated. They know a process is a mean, not a goal.

    That also means some processes get more attention then others.

    And, talking about creativity, of course the best is swimming into a blue ocean and do what no one else is doing.

  • Well, I haven't read their book, but John Jeston and Johan Nelis should have a positive answer:
    "Management by Process: A Roadmap to Sustainable Business Process Management, by John Jeston & Johan Nelis, Elsevier, 2008, London – the only book to provide a roadmap to sustainable BPM and High Performance Management"
    John also labels his website "Management by Process": http://www.managementbyprocess.com

    But let us also have a look at the appropriate definition of 'managing' from Merriam-Webster: to handle or direct with a degree of skill: as
    c : to exercise executive, administrative, and supervisory direction of -manage a business- -manage a bond issue- -manage a baseball team-.

    So managing is about directing, steering, supervising, monitoring, coaching etc. at different levels.

    I would argue that if you manage by process, you have defined at least the (/your own) main management processes.
    In that sense I can think of any type of management that COULD benefit from managing by process: strategic, tactic, operational, program/project management.
    Now Theo's example of Apple makes a lot of sense to me too.

    Another thing. If I design the management (steering) mechanisms of an operational process, I concentrate on states, triggers and performance indicators. This monitoring and steering process is BPM in a narrow sense. Management by process?!

    OK, perhaps a good idea to read John and Johan's book ;)

  • 1) Its meaning may be different for different people with an enterprise - please specify the target audience.

    2) Considering that process is explicitly expressed coordination for achieving a particular goal then yes. Just use a correct set of coordination techniques - see http://improving-bpm-systems.blogspot.com/2012/07/coordination-techniques-in-bpm-social.html


Add a Reply

Recently Commented On

Monthly Archives