Process Improvement Archives

Have You Had Your Duh Moment Yet?

business transformation

tothemoon 300x236 Have You Had Your Duh Moment Yet?The study cited below makes it sound like we are at the front end of a movement like the re-engineering wave of the early to mid nineties.

We didn’t get all that much sustainable change out of that one. Mostly that was because the ERP implementation wave had not finished so that the technology support was simply not there.

I think this round is different.

But first, read the piece and come back. You see, they expose a dirty little secret. Read More …

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The Role of Decisions in Processes

English: Classical ideal feedback model. The f...

350px ideal feedback model svg The Role of Decisions in Processes

A process consists of a string of activities, of actions, which produce outcomes. These outcomes usually in return elicit a reaction.

This reaction is called feedback of which there are two kinds: negative feedback and positive feedback.

Without going into the whole feedback concept, it is clear that the process outcome is dependent up the actions taken. Further more, these actions or activities, call them what you want, rely on decisions.

The process may be very descriptive or only provide guidance through, say, a policy. In most processes we have manual steps – done by people – coupled with technology – that is a system or application. Here the process intends for the person to moderate or direct the system responses. Again: decisions.

At this point we might think that process mapping would focus a lot on decisions, but we would be wrong. As a matter of fact, don’t just tale my word for it. Over at Harvard Business Review someone wrote a telling article on this topic.: the role of decisions in processes.

You should check it out. You’ll learn something. Read More …

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How Robots and Automation Will Affect Us


roybot 184x300 How Robots and Automation Will Affect UsRobots are getting a lot of media attention these days. Mostly that is because of interesting technological developments and news that big market actors are getting involved.

Exiting as this is, the reporting is missing a back story. This back story is about how robots and automation will affect us..

Today I just want to sketch out the major themes we must consider when trying to understand the effects of robots and more specifically, automation.

I see the following themes:

Let’s take a look at each one individually. Read More …

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nasa astronaut assistant 011 The robots are coming. Will they bring wealth or a divided society?

Looks like I sat on this piece for awhile, but the topic is timely all the same. Will robots bring wealth or a divided society?

There are two trains of thoughts on this:

  1. Robots will move from  manufacturing to the service sector and do to service employment what it is doing to manufacturing employment: Reduce it steadily as machines become more capable of doing more and more with no alternatives to pick up the slack.
  2. Robots will free us up from menial tasks of any kind so we can instead focus more and more on what really matters to us as individuals and as a society. This will bring many benefits that we can even imagine right now, but have faith. Read More …
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As Technology Gets Better, Will Society Get Worse?


ja08 300x223 As Technology Gets Better, Will Society Get Worse?The New Yorker poses an important question: As Technology Gets Better, Will Society Get Worse? I have been thinking about this topic lately because I am doing a lot of background reading on technology, automation and what various people think will be the effect on our society and economy.

So far the outlook seems to swing between doomsday and nirvana with little discussion in between. The in between is not so sexy and controversial I suppose and doesn’t sell books.

The New Yorker piece puts its finger squarely on something we can observe directly. And it is also observable in a more general sense outside the specific community they showcase.

I will be coming back with some more thoughts on this shortly, but for now, read this story and get your own mind going. You need to have a position on this. Read More …

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Complex Behavior Emerges from Simple Rules


w3 120 300x297 Complex Behavior Emerges from Simple RulesI got started on a new line of thinking this afternoon. It began with a post in my RSS feed collection about how complex behavior emerges from simple rules.

This is what the field of emergent behavior studies is about, but I had not made a deep connection with it until today.

I was somewhat superficially although interestedly aware for the work on understanding ant colonies, bird swarms and schools of fish.

But today something clicked that made me see a connection to self-organizing systems or processes.

Check out this TED video and then see what you think of the quoted comments from the blog Collaborative Planning & Social Business. Read More …

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The Unautomatable Process

unmanageable process

3D Women Jump 03 125 The Unautomatable ProcessI engaged in a dangerous activity this morning – I was thinking over my first cup of coffee. Scary thought, but there it is.

For reasons entirely unknown I strayed onto processes and how everything can be seen as part of a process. This led to the unfinished thought that a term that general – encompassing ‘everything’ – ceases to be very meaningful.

I suddenly had the sense that we might as well then say ‘the universe’ runs everything; everything is part of ‘the universe.’

Not very useful.

I doubt there is much of a market for ‘business universe automation.’ But, who knows. We’ve seen some really strange business fads over the years. This whole ‘enterprise everything management’ trend comes awfully close to the still a bit larger concept of the universe. I suppose in between we have ‘global.’ And how about ‘Galaxy.’ Read More …

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quality hits you

qualityhitsyou 300x236 Definitions of Quality – An Illustrative SampleIn a recent post, Towards a Model for Process Quality of Outcomes, I offered up a definition of perceived quality. I received a comment stating that there are many different definitions of quality and that perceived quality is just one way to look at it.

This is of course entirely true and I realized that I had not made my point sufficiently clear that I was writing about the quality of a process outcome we define as the customer experience.

Such a view of quality is not best modelled with an engineering like quality definition, but requires inclusion of perceptions and the effects of judgments.

At different stages in a process, be that manufacturing or service, we have use of measures of quality and they can take on many forms. Read More …

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You, Your Process and Deontic Logic

deontic logic

deonticlogic 300x236 You, Your Process and Deontic LogicDeontic logic is a branch of logic concerned with normative (that is prescriptive) concepts like obligation (i.e., what must be present), permission (i.e., what is allowed to be present, but can be absent), prohibition (i.e., what is not allowed to be present)and other concepts like that.

A key challenge has been how to formally deal with violations of normative rules and subsequently how to react, that is, determining what logically consistent obligations arise n response to violations.

This is a very real problem. Normative documents (e.g., polices) contain sets of directions (normative clauses or rules) to regulate the intended behaviour of the system or process.

The problem arises because normative systems or processes by necessity allow exceptions. The reason is purely practical because exceptions can be damaging and we want protection against harm. This is why we build controls into our systems or processes.

Deontic Logic and Response

Here is matrix view of the deontic logic concepts and consistent responses:

Condition is Present

Condition is Absent

Condition is Mandatory

Accept and proceed

Reject for resolution

Condition is Permitted

Accept and proceed

Accept and proceed

Condition is Prohibited

Reject for resolution

Accept and proceed

Given that exceptions often exhibit randomness, it is impossible (or at least very difficult) to define categorical, normative rules for exception handling.

We resolve this in practice by identifying control points with defined acceptance criteria with an inserted human decision maker to sort out exactly what to do about the encountered exceptions.

Currently this is an unresolved area of business process automation that until further breakthrough prevents full robotization of a process that includes automated exception resolution.

The future may lie in further advancements in machine learning such as genetic algorithms and neural networks, but we don’t know that for certain.

The learning points

The learning points I take away from this are:

  • We know how to define robust acceptance criteria (normative rules)
  • We know controls must consider the normative concepts of:
    • Obligation
    • Permission
    • Prohibition
    • We cannot (yet) define robust normative rules of response for the totality of possible exceptions in a process
 You, Your Process and Deontic Logic
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Towards a Model for Process Quality of Outcomes

perceived quality model

perceivedqualitymodel 300x207 Towards a Model for Process Quality of OutcomesA process exists for a purpose: meet or exceed customer expectations of the customer experience.

Fine and dandy, but what does this mean and how do we operationalize the definition? What strategic and tactical levers do we have to craft, operate and evolve a predictable customer experience?

This line of thinking is taking us towards a model for process quality of outcomes.

I had occasion to deep-dive into this subject matter in my MBA Thesis where I concluded that we can center the discussion around the concept of value and customers’ perceived quality.

My inspiration came from a paper that treated quality as a judgment based on perceptions. (Steenkamp, J.-B.E.M.(1990) Conceptual model of the quality perception process,” Journal of Business Research, Vol. 21, December, pp. 309(25))

This is interesting because it specifically addresses the vagaries of human perception, something which has famously been expounded upon in considerable detail by for example the Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman in his recent book “Thinking Fast and Slow.” (If you haven’t already read it I recommend that you do.)

But back to quality.

Read More …

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High Level Approach to Process Mining


350px Bpr1 High Level Approach to Process Mining

At its simplest level, Process Mining is about discovering the real business processes to assist us in fixing problems and making improvements.

In practice, we need a little more meat on the skeleton, as it were. Conceptually, the challenge is the same as most any type of improvement initiative we can think of. The difference is mostly in the technical details of the data collection and data processing.

Therefore, we can think of it as an extension of the familiar Plan-Do-Check-Action cycle made popular and proven in practice in the early days of the total quality management movement.

I will introduce a subtle twist, though, to give us the following high level approach to process mining:

  1. Focus the effort – this is the planning stage where we may do rapid process or more appropriately, transaction flow mapping to set the scope of the investigation.
  2. Extract data and analyse to identify opportunities – this is the work to build or apply data extractors , clean up the event logs and process with a process mining tool . Conceptually, this is work-flow and collaboration mapping of the real process as captured by the actual transactions of the organization.
  3. Make changes – this is the implementation part where we act on our conclusions from the analysis and start removing waste end reduce variation.
  4. Measure outcomes and repeat the cycle – this is where we go back and pull new event logs to check the actual, measurable outcomes of our change initiatives. This is the step that makes process mining into a practical, achievable and measurable continuous improvement process in and of itself.

For the first time, we now have efficient tools that allow us to repeat process analysis without significant effort because once set-up for the first round of analysis, the mechanisms are in place for reuse anytime in the future.


 High Level Approach to Process Mining
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