Written by Joseph Jones

BPR – How Do I “Get It Done”? (Part 2 of 3)

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about why BPR may be useful in your business environment.  You’ve identified candidate business objectives and drivers, some example case studies and their results, and key ingredients for the success of your BPR initiative, starting with the business case.  Now, top management has responded to your emerging business case by quoting Thomas Edison: “There’s a better way to do it – Find it.”

The good news is that they are conceptually buying into your BPR ideas as a means to gaining a competitive edge.  But now they want to know “How are you going to pull this off?”  Is it going to be easy?  Don’t kid yourself.  This is going to take hard work, collaboration, imagination, creative effort, and project discipline focused on processes.  And, you need to make sure that top management understands, accepts, supports, communicates, and commits willingly to dedicate the resources, time, and energy for success.

You’ll need a blueprint for building the business case and project plan.  This requires that you scope out and plan the effort.  What part(s) of the problem(s) are you going to attack first?  Which processes are the biggest contributors to attaining your chosen business objectives and drivers?  According to documented case studies, an oft-proven lesson is that the business context is key to understanding processes and making meaningful decisions about how to proceed.  Do you remember the telephone commercial where the shipping customer says “Let’s talk phones” and the account manager says “OK, but – let’s talk trucks first.”?

Taking a page from the discipline of value engineering, I find it useful to do some early pick-and-shovel homework to establish a sound contextual foundation for the BPR initiative: (1) identify each business function related to your BPR objective(s) and why it is needed, (2) determine the contribution to business objectives and cost associated with each function, (3) for the high-value functions, identify and define the processes that are necessary to perform the function well, and (4) map the process flow, interactions, and gaps.  While doing so, look for and earmark processes where you can combine, substitute, eliminate, simplify, reuse, share, and/or standardize to improve performance and/or lower cost.

And remember, in truly radical BPR, nothing is untouchable.  Seek out the “why” for everything; challenge the status quo; and harvest all the good ideas.  In addition to sweeping transformations, your scoping and context homework may also obviate incremental changes that can be channelled into your incremental process improvements or optimization.

What is the best methodology?  There are multiple ways to conduct a BPR.  One size certainly does not fit all.  Selecting the right structured methodology for your BPR project should account for:

  • Relevance to your organizational context; i.e., financial, manufacturing, retail, services, research, clinical, etc.
  • Whether case studies and experience have shown it to be effective on prior efforts similar to your target project in nature, scope, and complexity
  • Whether you have access to an experienced internal practitioner or contract BPR project lead who has successfully used this selected approach before
  • Project and communications plans, and analytical tools that fit the chosen methodology

Working with your experienced BPR practitioner as your guide, once you’ve selected a proven methodology and supporting analytic tools, perhaps with thoughtful tailoring to your objectives, the key is to follow it faithfully.

Descriptions of the more recognizable BPR methodologies, starting with Hammer and Champy’s original in ”Re-engineering the Corporation”, generally range from four to seven basic stages.  Whichever you choose, you should end up with something like the following list, while recognizing that these major activities will be more detailed, iterated, and refined in practice.  Some may also be broken out as spirals to address side-effects of your BPR project, or quick hits and incremental improvements for your continuous process improvement program.

  • Initiation – understanding and documenting a project charter that identifies the significant needs that drive the necessity for BPR, mission and vision, strategic objectives and conceptual requirements, initial scope and planning, corporate commitment and funding; building the project team; and motivating stakeholders
  • Baselining – documenting the relevant business functions, “as-is” baseline process mapping, information interfaces, and activity models; collecting and augmenting metrics and data collection for use in benchmarking before-and-after operational and financial performance
  • Analysis – examining the baseline and analytics for causal factors; creating alternative solutions by re-thinking and possibly modeling what the re-designed process should look like – and why (based on problem, criticality, feasibility); down-selecting among the “to-be” alternatives, including criteria for performance, risk, realism, security, cost/benefit trade-offs, and customer tolerance; choosing the best of the alternatives for detailed planning and scheduling; and earmarking promising incremental changes
  • Construction – designing, developing, and validating the details of the chosen process solution(s), including its (their) “to-be” process maps, documentation,  and any attendant impacts on technology and organizational structure; and planning the transformation
  • Transformation – implementing the solution across the organization, dispositioning displaced capital assets and processes, and the accompanying change management support such as communications, logistics, security, contingency plans, training, customer support, etc
  • Maintenance – monitoring performance and collecting data (including user and customer perceptions) during and after the BPR roll-out to identify trends against the benchmarks, and feeding the results back into either future BPR initiatives or continuous performance improvement programs such as Total Quality Management (TQM)

Now, what about the enabling methods, tools, and techniques to make this work?  Some of the more useful base approaches include:

  • Lean: Ongoing improvements through the elimination of wasted movement in a process through re-designing and improving activities, connections, and process value streams and flows
  • Six Sigma: Measurement and improvement of an organization’s operational performance using data and statistical analysis based on either Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) or DMAIC (Design, Measure, Analyze, Implement, Control)
  • Theory of Constraints (TOC): Continuous improvement through identification of a control point (weakest link) within the process and how to enhance or improve it through the five steps of SDAIS: (Strategy, Design, Analyze, Improve, Sustain)
  • Integrated TOC, Lean, Six Sigma (ITLS): Unified approach that emphasizes long-term improvement with better overall financial results than its individual components

There’s also a slew of supporting tools for BPR.  We’ll leave the details for another time, but some of the most prevalent include:

  • IDEF (Integrated Definition): systematic approach to mapping activities (IDEF0), data flow (IDEF1), and dynamic process behavior of how information and resources are used (IDEF2)
  • Voice of the Customer (VoC): technique for attaining understanding of and alignment with customer issues
  • Activity-Based Costing (ABC): technique for determining cost drivers and how a process and its components consume resources
  • Failure Means and Effects Analysis (FMEA): structured analytical tool for identifying and evaluating the potential failures of a process
  • Pareto Analysis: charting methodology to isolate the major causes of the most defects
  • Plan/Do/Act/Check (PDAC): cycle for benchmarking and performance analysis

Also, make sure you have the detailed procedures, checklists, and analytical tools that support your chosen path.  Select the ones where your lead BPR practitioner has had successful experience.  If your progress suggests something else as you go along, augment your team with an expert who has the requisite successes notched on their experience belt.

Finally, I can’t over-stress the importance of effective Change Management (CM) for managing the impact of process, structure, technology, and cultural changes.  While BPR doesn’t just happen from the bottom-up, a good BPR program will focus the attention of every stakeholder at all levels on the vision, objective(s), and methodology – they need to “own” the project rather than blindly accept and perform isolated activities and action items as assigned.  Accomplishing this focus will involve collaboration, publicity, training, and social marketing that develop personal awareness of the overall vision for improvement, the need(s) being met, the BPR methodology, the ideas needed for improvements, and the changes being made.  Remember, people are the sources of innovative ideas and key enablers of change.  Therefore, truly disruptive, yet effective, change takes time and a liberal dose of patience.

Next up, where can BPR help you solve problems and create new opportunities?  See Part 3 of this series for some ideas.