Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Hidden Process

A request I made got stuck in a "corporate process" some weeks ago. When looking into it and hunting the request I obeserved some interesting things.

The process contained several steps - each performed by different departments. And a ticket system was used to send forward and update the request.
The process was designed to do: A --> B --> C --> D --> E

But, that was designed for a slightly different setup. The requests we now made did not need to perform step D. In fact, doing step D would have negative impact. So, when submitting the request we added information about "skip D - we handle that in another way later".

When the request hit D information about how to perform D was missing. Of course, since we didn't want that step. The supplied information about ignoring step D was ignored.

Since D could not complete its step it just returned the request to C. C got confused and did the only thing they do - passed it on to D. After bouncing a few times it stopped. And neither C or D bothered more about it.

The ticket was stopped in this magical corporate workflow....

When tracking the request it turned out that every step only knew how to receive the request and how to pass it on. No step know more than previous and next. No instance saw the whole process. No instance was able to make sound decisions - take an overall approach and look at the request and process and see that it should be passed on - not to D but to E.

Having a silo based organization where workflows involved many silos can create interesting situations. Like the one above. Where the organization has become incapable of seeing the whole - and only knows how to receive and send small chunks of work.

Focus on the result and value of the process - not on the individual steps.

Putting paint on a brush and apply to a canvas a thousand times do not always create a Mona Lisa. But the chance is higher if you know what you try to paint. Instead of just doing 1000 small movements with a brush with paint.