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“Shelley Sweet was recommended to me at a time when I was seeking professional assistance to lead the District in the development of a strategic plan. It was a fortunate meeting – with Shelley’s experience and guidance we were able to assemble a broad range of community members to form a design team. The team participated in a series of activities to assess, discuss, and develop the outcomes to create the classroom of the future. Under Shelley’s leadership, the design team was able to propose to the Board of Education, seven completed “initiatives” that would provide the course of action to realize the District’s vision.”

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5 Early Warning Signals for a BPI Project - Part 1

NO Sign 2Can you recognize the early warning signals that derail a business process improvement project? Many articles have been written about what makes process improvement projects fail and usually they list critical success factors.   But the real question is how do you recognize the leading indicators in a process? And once you identify these signals what action should you take to cure the ill and get the process back on track or put a halt to the project altogether?

Let’s look at the stages of the BPM Methodology and identify early warning signals and then suggest some countermeasures that are helpful to get things righted again.

BPM:BPI Methodology-Color-orange-blue

This graphic shows the four stages of the BPM Methodology and the detailed phases of stage 2, the Business Process Improvement Project.

The first early warning signal is in stage 1, Process Selection, or choosing which process to work on.  It’s not that there is one right process to work on first but the choice of a poor project creates many challenges that often lead to a bad name for the whole concept of business process management.  The wrong process choice is usually from three circumstances: 

  1. Starting with an enterprise project with several cross-functional stakeholder groups participating. 
  2. Choosing a project where a single Executive Sponsor cannot be designated and it needs two to three Process Owners
  3. Starting with a project that requires a different culture than the organization currently has.  This would be the case if the culture was authoritarian and it tried to use employee process improvement teams.

The answer to these warning signals is don’t start with a large enterprise process projects without the necessary leaders, and a culture to support it.  Instead start smaller, with a key sub process, with leadership and a culture in that function or business unit that support employees working together and understanding how to look at a process and use data, diagrams, and the voice of the customer to improve it.

In the Chartering and Staffing phase of the BPI project there are many critical success factors (It is the beginning of the project!  Get it right and you are off to a good start, but get it wrong and you’ll create numerous problem areas).  Let me discuss two factors:

The Project Charter  
Below are four early warning signals that can come up during the charter process.

(See my book, The BPI Blueprint: A Step-By-Step Guide to Make Your Business Process Improvement Projects Simple, Structured, and Successful, for a charter template, completed charter example from a client, and details on how to create one.) 

  1. Having no charter. Maybe this happens because the BPM professional staff or IT knows this process needs working on and just begins.  There is no written charter, and minimal involvement of the business executives in defining the improvement goals. 
  2. No baseline measures.  Without baseline measures, there is no quantitative data to see how critical this problem is, as well as data to see what the current situation is and what kind of goal value should be set for the improvement 
  3. Uncommitted leadership.  There is no Process Owner who is designated and steps up to guide this effort, setting the goals, vision, measures, scope, and selecting and providing the necessary team resources.  Or the Process Owner has limited time for the team and moves onto other initiatives.
  4. Overburdened team members. Several team members says they have too many other projects and will not be able to devote time to this additional BPI project.

 Part 2 of this blog explains what to do about these four Project Charter warning signals, and provides more signals for phase 2, 3 and 4 of the BPI project.

If you want to learn more about how to run a simple, structured, and successful BPI project register for one of my two courses:  Starting and Organizing a BPM Project and Analyzing and Optimizing BPM Processes.

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2 comments to 5 Early Warning Signals for a BPI Project – Part 1

  • I agree with Edward Burns that in many cases, management wants to rush to solve a symptom rather than a root cause. And they want a ‘silver-bullet’ solution.

    Oddly, I often find that when there is a performance problem it is an accountability issue. When I ask who is held accountable for the result the answer turns out to be ‘no one’. And when I press to have accountability established, management resists.

    • shelley

      These are really interesting comments. I agree with both things you say, but had not thought of them that way. Thank you for your comments.

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