If not for People…
- August 11, 2010
- 2 Comments
Humans are your most crucial failure point in a process. When ever you are designing processes (or systems to support processes) you should ensure you try and minimise the ability of the human to cause a failure. Google Mail now, for example, can scan your email and look for the words such as ‘attached’ which might indicate that an attachment is expected. If you send the mail without an attachment it will warn you. But how many other email systems have that functionality?
Of course, it is process-improvement 101 that anywhere a human touches a process you expect to find various failure modes there. Even the process of finding process failures can be error prone because it is performed by humans. Often these failures are couched as “measurement error” (a euphemism for human error or variation in that case).
But I prefer to take a more positive view of the human condition. The humans in your process are your greatest opportunity for improving your business:
- By personalizing service for your customers
- By creating a personal relationship with your customers
- By leveraging their experience to make difficult decisions that can’t be trusted to algorithms alone
- By identifying opportunities to make their own work more effective, as well as that of those they work with (improving the process)
- By identifying new sales opportunities via direct communication with customers
And the list goes on and on. Your humans are the critical element in your processes. They’re your differentiating advantage. So by all means, give them all the automated assistance you can. Tee up all the information they need. Double check their work and make sure it appears to be consistent in action and word. But this is, to me, a bit like applying 5s to office work. Sure, the knowledge worker doesn’t have to have their desk identical to their neighbors’. Because they’ll have the same desk tomorrow. But we can “clean up” the spaces around their process interaction, so that they’re more consistent, more useful, and more pleasant to work with.
I think BPM and process improvement proponents need to take a more positive view of human involvement in their processes. It isn’t all about raw efficiency or cold accuracy. Borrowing from a recent “Process Ninja” post:
So when thinking about automating processes, think about the number of moments of truth that are occurring in the process, and look to eliminate or improve them. Process is not just about time and cost, it is fundamentally about the customer experience.