Does BPM turn us into deer in the headlights?

Business process management can be a tough thing. People are challenged by so many questions before they even start: Where do I begin? Isn’t this going to disrupt the enterpirse? How will I sell this to senior leadership? Is this really expected of me? How do I sell the ROI to management?

…can I just stay under the radar?


These questions freeze us, not just in business process management, but in all areas of life. Careers are made by quietly following the status quo and risk is involved with stepping out of the mainstream or going against the grain. So why do it? Because when work is just about getting by, it just isn’t worth spending so much time away from what we really enjoy (unless we love work, which still makes my point).

Be daring

But what if you believed that great things, even in your work, will change your world for the better? If you believed this, you’d also need to believe that doing business fundamentally better could be something large and daring enough that it demands your very best. You’d also need to believe that doing your very best is very, very, very personally rewarding. If you believed this, you’d be daring (a link to a great quote by Teddy Roosevelt) about the things that make you passionate. It would give you the strength to face critics and win the day.


If you’ve followed my personal blog, you know we’ve spent lots of time in the Himalayas and other far-flung places. It becomes very (sometimes painfully) apparent when we leave our world that most of our planet’s inhabitants don’t live with a myriad of choices. Their world is defined by a lack of options and necessity for finding the way to survive. Thanks to technology, we have many choices for how to conduct our lives and our business. Those choices, however, become a curse when we have the luxury of being inefficient and wasteful. We could even argue that having so many choices actually leads to waste and inefficiency.

The success paradox

Inefficiency and waste, however, often aren’t big enough arguments for change. One of the most common arguments (and I hear this at least weekly) against an improvement initiative sounds like this: “We’re doing pretty well as we are, so why would we need to change.” We don’t need to follow Eugene O’Neill to know that complacency and success are our biggest dangers and an organization that isn’t always improving, always taking measured risk, always questioning organizational ‘truths’ is in danger of failure. It is a time-honored paradox with plenty of great examples as proof.

O’Neill could have been a BPM expert when he said “A man’s work is in danger of deteriorating when he thinks he has found the one best formula for doing it. If he thinks that, he is likely to feel that all he needs is merely to go on repeating himself…so long as a person is searching for better ways of doing his work, he is fairly safe.” He was a Nobel laureate in Literature and, we can agree, pretty insightful.


So don’t be a deer in the headlights. Many people who’ve had great BPM success were in the same place. For a great place to start, see chapter 4 of the APQC Frameworks Study: The Framework Implementation Journey. This chapter breaks down the steps and rationale for each leg of the journey in far more detail than the picture, below:



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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  1. BPM Quotes of the week « Adam Deane - November 25, 2011

    […] BPM and Improving – Chris Taylor O’Neill could have been a BPM expert when he said “A man’s work is in […]

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