The Trouble with Process (Maturity)

  • July 10, 2012
  • Scott

The trouble with Process Maturity Assessments is well-captured by Alberto Manuel on his blog:

Do you believe it’s worth to start a change program because you have a process at level 3 maturity stage when a level 5 process, customer critical is the first candidate? What if all processes equalize at level 5 (like human assessment methods that after 3 years of implementation 80% of employees reach the top of the scale).

Interesting points… I think he identifies precisely how maturity models (of any type) can be misused.  The goal isn’t to get to level 5, in my opinion.  The goal is to be honest with yourself about where your process is at – and be able to ask yourself whether a particular level of maturity makes sense for the process in question.  

As a wise person once said, if you have 10 major corporate processes you are looking at, should you invest your budget for process improvement equally among the 10? or should you invest it disproportionately toward the major processes with the most room for improvement?

A second problem is whether the maturity models ask the right questions to provide useful maturity differentiation between processes.  In other words, are the differences actually moving the needle on how processes perform, or are they just easy things to check off on a corporate compliance checklist?  Only the former has value.

Still, I always felt that it is a Good Thing to have a way to be honest with yourself and your organization about process. Process Maturity is one attempt to provide that visibility or honesty, however flawed.

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  • I’m glad that the post catch the community attention.

    There is an underneath thought regarding the importance of thinking when humans make decisions.

    These days I’m experiencing increasing expectations that systems can help humans to predict or to improve operations. Repeatably people ask me when I’m making approaches with bpm tools (does not mean bpms only) if the system can recommend new ways to execute, to improve radically, to innovate. I don’t know if humans want to quit to think about problem solving or want to be helped more quickly in a time where speed to change is a key enabler to achieve market differentiation. For the time being, such intelligence does not exist (despite it’s being marketed a such) but somehow we will get there with efforts of R&D. Think for example that we are not to far from fully automated vehicle driving.

    Anyhow even if we had today that intelligence, there is a system principle that we cannot get rid off: the errors of intuitive thought or cognitive illusion. Systems don’t have the capacity to separate and process errors that don’t match in their computing algorithms. I remember a robot with intelligence provided by the IBM’s Watson that the only answer about North Korea was “North Korea does not have commercial/political relationship with USA”.

    Probably in the future artificial intelligence will be a reality, but still errors of cognitive thought are difficult to avoid.

    That is the reason that despite maturity models can provide a direction, the final decision will be made by a human being. Because he knows (or supposedly knows)what is the critical change that must be done that never can be part of a assessment model.

    • People are better off using systems to validate or fact-check their decisions, rather than expecting systems to recommend process improvements.  often the recommendations are pretty bad – automating correlations that have no causal linkage, for example.

      I hope AI never works for this stuff because if it does, what’s the point of the humans transacting business? 🙂

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