An Insidious Disease

February 23, 2009

Last week I wrote a post referencing Tim Walkers Watch out for chokepoints! In that post I wrote that IT can be a key bottleneck in those chokepoints

Both directly, and indirectly

In the comments to that post, Mr. Walker noted that when it comes to indirect chokepoints;

..indirect ones are far more insidious, like a wasting disease.

He is absolutely correct.

This indirect chokepoint is simply process waste.

This concept is nothing new, Michael Hammer and James Champy wrote a best seller about it almost 20 years ago; Reengineering The Corporation.

Here’s the Problem

In most cases, these process waste problems are invisible. People don’t recognize that the many steps, handoffs, and pieces of work that they perform are wasting time, money, and efficiency.

And unless you as a SME manager are involved, no one will care about it.

It is not like this waste is going to instantly sink your big deal or contract, it is just slow, leaking, wasted time and money.

And IT can’t do much about it.

These type of insidious diseases cannot be fixed by your technology staff or provider on their own. Because even if they do see it. Fixing it must be driven from the top.

A Real World Example

Using Microsoft Sharepoint Team Services (the freely available addition to licensed copies of MS Windows Server, not the full MS Office Sharepoint Server) I built three applications to remove that type of process waste.

Of those three applications, one of them has been successful, one was successful for a short period of time, the third was never used.

Here is why

The successful tool that I built was a brand new request – a manager needed to solve a new issue. So there was no fighting the way we always done it around here….

For the second one, another manager who was aware of our process issues worked with his team to do some process improvement on the old ad hoc process as it existed – this worked well until he left after about a year. His internally promoted replacement just let it go into misuse – back to the old way we always do it around here.

For the third, even though I had provided it, and demonstrated how it would reduce rework, and decrease wasted time, the divisional manager liked it but did not drive using it – and everyone on that team were too comfortable with the way we always do it around here.

The Lesson

Some things can bubble up from the grass roots.

But change can’t.

With this type of insidious waste, while technology can help remove it, technologists cannot do it alone – because it is change, and change must be driven from the top.

It requires strategic management of your IT. Not a tactical plan.

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