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“In class when I mapped the freight process, I discovered that the operational process was not the main issue; instead we had some key decisions at the strategic level to consider. Back at work, I have already shared the maps I developed with others and I am developing some dashboards to collect data to focus our improvement efforts. Shelley asked some insightful questions that influenced my thinking and put me in a stronger position to demonstrate what needed to be done.”

Theresa Quinn Accurso
Director of Finance
Shure Inc.


5 Early Warning Signals for a BPI Project and What to Do About Them - Part 2

NO Sign 2Can you recognize the early warning signals that derail a business process improvement project? Part 1 of this blog  identified five early warning signals and suggested what action you should take to cure the ill for the first one–poor process selection.  Part 2 continues with how to put the process back on track (or halt to the project altogether) for the other 4 early warning signals and then suggests a few more signals to watch for as the BPI project progresses.

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 Project Charter  

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

  1. Having no charter. 
  2. No baseline measures.  
  3. Uncommitted leadership.  
  4. Overburdened team members.  

What can you do in these situations?

  1. If there is no charter, stop and develop one. Go back and do it. Write it down, put it in the Shared Repository and keep using it and iterating it as the project moves along.   If the company has a real anathema to charters, don’t call it a charter, but gather the elements, and name the file something else, or put it in Blueworks Live in the appropriate fields as part of the project overall.
  2. Once you have the improvement goals for the project they will need measures.  So name the appropriate measurement categories and then gather the real baseline data.  It doesn’t have to be for the past three years; make it simple.  But it may take some manual work this first time because process measures are not automated in most companies today.
  3. If you have uncommitted leadership, stop.  Get different leadership, but make sure they have the responsibility for the process.   Or, pick a different process where there is the appropriate Process Owner with commitment to the BPI project.  Uncommitted leadership is a big stumbling block –not worth investing in.
  4. Overburdened team members are usually a sign of a larger problem—the company has too many priorities and keeps adding more assignments without taking some items off the plate.  Team members can be ‘conscripted’ to join the team, but if they really do not have time to work on the BPI they will soon start voting with their feet and just not coming to working sessions.  So reconsider if this is the right process at this time.  Maybe another process where the employees are not so stretched would be better.  If just one or two team members are overburdened, it may be possible to find good alternates, but if there are several, don’t start this BPI project. 

Phases 2, 3, and 4 of the BPI Project are about doing the modeling, analyzing and redesigning the process.  There are individual red flags within each phase, and another blog will address them later.  But the biggest one I see is if the project drags on too long.  How do you recognize this early? 

  1. There is no project plan with dates for all meetings scheduled from start to finish.  Instead meetings are scheduled one by one.
  2. Meetings keep getting postponed.
  3. Meetings with the Process Owner are delayed and cause delays in the BPI teamwork.

Here’s an easy tip.  Look for this pattern and speak about it quickly.  And I say a pattern is any combination of three of these items or three repeats of any of these items.  Then discuss the project with the Process Owner, determine root cause, and be prepared to re-energize the team.  Do one of the following (1) set a new time-boxed schedule, (2) take a break and restart later (which will be very difficult), or (3) fold the team.

These are important leading indicators that the process is in trouble.  Take the early warning signals as valid information and be ready to have a discussion with the appropriate players and take action.  Otherwise your BPI project could drag on, probably getting weaker, and not moving toward success. 

(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.) 

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