Just put one foot in front of the other #bpm

We just spent three weeks trekking across a section of the Himalaya of Nepal. We started in Phaplu, well south of our objective of Mera Peak and had to not only travel a significant distance, but gain an astounding 5000 m in altitude (15,000 feet). We had other options, sure, so why didn’t we just take a helicopter to Base Camp?

We had no right to be on Mera Peak without everything we went through to get there. Sometimes we were in alpine forests, other times in jungle. It didn’t always appear we were headed toward our goal.  This journey, however, gave us four critical capabilities:

– Acclimitization (to altitude, Nepali food, the weather, daily schedule)
– Toughening up (of our legs, feet and hands)
– Team building between our staff and team
– Getting our balance on tough terrain

These critical capabilities had the following benefits for each of us:

– Learned about our strengths and weakneses
– Worked out the kinks in gear and processes
– Gained confidence needed to do something daring and hard
– Demonstrated to our guides that we were ready for the summit

Preparation pays off

The two weeks that we spent preparing for the climb were the most important part of our preparation. We could have been in a hurry to just get to the objective, but it would have backfired. Getting there meant sun, rain, cold, warm, and enormous uphill and downhill stretches (one after the other). It wasn’t easy to go through the work and at times, the only thing that kept us going was a desire to reach our still-far-off goal of the Peak. We made our way across Nepal and toward our very lofty goal by putting one foot in front of the other.

You knew a metaphor was coming…

BPM journey

Making an organization ready for process excellence is also about putting one process foot in front of the other. What an organization goes through in the act of process discovery, stakeholder communication and validation is a significant part of what prepares it to be an excellent process-focused enterprise. It seems slow and hard at the time, but it has a purpose greater than holding workshops and drawing boxes and lines. The end result of that effort is a surprisingly strong set of ways to do business that are owned, changed and accessible on desktops across the enterprise. A remarkably powerful result.

Without taking the time to get ready and without the involvement of the whole team, the result will be the same as any short cut approach…a lack of preparation that makes the ultimate goal unlikely and diminishes the confidence of the organization, making it unable to strive for something better than typical outcomes. Worse, poorly managed process projects lead to cynicism and the perception that “process geeks are at it again”.

Up-front investment, while not always appealing to budget holders and friendly to a quick-result culture, is fundamental to a successful climb or the creation of a system for managing process.


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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8 Comments on “Just put one foot in front of the other #bpm”

  1. Craig J Willis
    November 1, 2011 at 1:16 am #

    Hi Chris and welcome back,

    Apart from the absence of a life or death situation in the average workplace I think the metaphor works very well. Process should not be simply about creating an automated system where every step, option and exception needs to be thought through before a process is ever started. Process is much bigger than that and when an organization starts the journey to understanding and improving their process they need be executing them at the same time. Preparation is essential but the most effective process discovery can only happen when those processes are already being done.

    • November 1, 2011 at 8:54 am #

      Thanks. Yes, there was a life or death element in the Himalaya that isn’t typical in most workplaces.

      • Paul Barrett
        November 1, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

        There was Dilbert post just recently that talked about whether it was acceptable to have the urge to kill co-workers. As the strip said, ‘I’m up to six already and it’s only lunchtime.’

        But getting back to the point. Every journey starts with one step. Process and journey are just great metaphors for each other.

  2. November 1, 2011 at 8:54 am #


    Great to have you back. Nice post. You are absolutely right – you can start with an end state in mind, but there are no shortcuts to get there (but there are better routes).

  3. November 1, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    You were great trekking companions. Your efforts for the Basa Village School will, I hope, aid in the education of those dear children in positive ways we cannot even comprehend. Your philanthro-trekking friend, Jeff Rasley

    • November 1, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

      Thank you, Jeff. It was the highlight of our trip to be part of donating the computers to Basa. Thanks for making it possible.

  4. November 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    Hi, Chris, enjoy your series of Himalaya Journey vs. BPM Journey blogs, for hiking journey, the seasoned tour guide may help a lot–though picking the right trail, well preparation, the pitfalls, the weather conditions., etc, same as BPM, CoE–Center of Excellence, BPM may play the tour guide role, to manage the journey more scientifically.

    Both journey also need positive attitude, tough mentality and persistence. Himalaya journey is life long inspiration, and BPM journey is long term business re-invention. thanks

    • November 1, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

      Great comments, Pearl. Yes…the guide makes the journey easier, as does conceptual aids like a Center of Excellence to model from.

      Persistence and discipline are the two ingredients most vital and in shortest supply!

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