UPS, TED, BPM and The Adjustment Bureau

(No spoilers here)  Just saw The Adjustment Bureau.  The movie’s concept was great…there are many paths to many different outcomes, each choice having a “ripple effect” on the future.  Paths are managed in book-like technology with many complex symbols leading to “inflection points”.  This spaghetti-wired mess is only intelligible to the trained agents of The Adjustment Bureau.  Only these experts, above it all, can keep “The Plan” on track through skillful intervention.  The twist arrives in “chance”, unpredicted events that are the enemy of The Plan (and are all-too commonplace).  Sound familiar?

"The Plan" - a first look at BPMN 4.0?

I think I’ll write an alternative screenplay I’ll call ‘Reality BPM’, where everyone in your company has the ability to know the ‘plot’ through a system that organizes activity and its context using simple expressions, distributes content real-time to everyone who needs it, and makes it relevant and personal.  This show lacks all of the ‘tension’ and the ‘cliffhanger’ ending.  Sound less exciting?  A box office bomb, in fact.  Way too predictable.

People are visual.  We ‘get’ what we can see, which is why we love whiteboards, clever logos, PowerPoint (…when it is used graphically) and video.  Why does BPM need to be any different when the technology exists to see the World of our work and find our place within it?  Because ‘experts’ are choosing our entertainment!?  I took part in a recent APQC Frameworks Study where UPS wowed the crowd when they showed how they manage all process through four symbols, basic names, easy flows.  It is simple, role-based and everyone understands it at a glance.  Simply put, it works.

At this year’s TED Conference, Salman Khan gave a great talk on how simple visual images on video are changing education.  He’s on to something that is just as powerful in BPM…people respond when they can visually digest what they need to do, in the context of broader activities, and follow it intuitively.  A dull but very effective plot line.  We should all be in line for that show.


Categories: Workplace Reality

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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9 Comments on “UPS, TED, BPM and The Adjustment Bureau”

  1. Mike
    March 15, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    Great article. Is there a link to the UPS presentation or paper availible?

    • March 15, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

      There will be soon when APQC and Nimbus release the study results in April. Watch my blog for updates on how you can get a copy.

  2. Craig
    March 15, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    The plot gets exciting when things work better. Profits increase and workers have more time to spend on the jobs they find interesting. When everyone gets a share of the success!

  3. Marc Mouries
    March 15, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

    Good analogy. However in the movie (from what i gather from the trailer) a sort of police enforces people’s pre-established destiny. However people change and their pre-destined path will conflict with their new best path. Like a pre-arranged marriage might bring fortune and peace to the families of the bride and the groom but might not make them happy. Similarly, in the business world, a business process established with a pre-defined ‘plot’ may not be able to handle unexpected events and requests from customers. It’s important to establish guidelines that helps insuring consistency but the design, the tool, the methodology should help adjust the processes to a new business and social reality.

    • March 16, 2011 at 3:45 am #

      Couldn’t agree more. A strong BPM system has to be flexible enough to handle (and track) changes. Changes are as much a part of operating.

  4. Sam Lorio
    March 29, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    Excellent TED video. I’m new to TED and will try his videos with my kids (they don’t like me tutoring them). I can see how Salman’s concepts applied to a business environment will raise the bar both in what everyone will now know and be able to perform. That’s learning in action.


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