BPM: Are You A Cubist?

I’m relieved to report that the idea of successful business transformation as being like solving a Rubik’s cube for the enterprise – first featured here last week – didn’t just survive its first public airing this week; it seemed to be very warmly received.

The idea is that it’s impossible to solve a Rubik’s cube without thinking in three dimensions. And the enterprise is like the Rubik’s cube because its various dimensions need to collaborate to optimize. The enterprise, of course, is far more complex: in a Rubik’s cube competition, there is a single solution to the puzzle which we are all trying to reach first. Whereas in the enterprise there is no single static solution – it is continually evolving. Still, it seems to be a useful parallel.


The Shared Services and Outsourcing workshop at the Inspiring Performance conference this week, looked at how effective process management underpins successful business transformation. [for this purpose, we deliberately ditched the term ‘business process management’ as it’s so ill-defined and confused; keeping it simple, we defined effective process management as what best enables the advance of the enterprise ].

In front of a sizeable audience of practitioners whose combined experience in this area, we calculated, exceeded 300 years, I staked a claim: that effective process management is only possible with a collaborative framework that has four characteristics:

(1) it’s in the language of process

(2) it’s holistic – incorporating the entire enterprise; providing visibility of end-to-end processes; and enabling the optimization of both manual and automated activities

(3) it’s real – it’s live, adopted across the enterprise, and not an artificial construct accessible only by a high priesthood of process cognoscenti

(4) it’s governed – to be sustainable, it has to be wrapped within a robust but easy-to-use governance framework (that also incorporates risks, controls and compliance).

Without these, I said, it’s not effective process management. It’s sub-optimal. It’s possible to garden without tools or gloves or compost – but it’s sub-optimal, it’s not effective. It’s possible to feed a family without an oven or fridge or even a flame – but it’s sub-optimal, it’s not effective.

I’m a quiet sort of a guy, I don’t usually court controversy. So I rested my case and looked around the room with some trepidation. What I saw was universally nodding heads.

‘Yes Mike’, I hear you say: ‘but you were just preaching to the choir!’ But no, a significant proportion of the delegates in the room were not Nimbus clients. And private feedback later was very supportive.

So there’s something in it. It’s an idea I’ll return to (and welcome your comments on). Meantime, we need a name for this movement. Cubism is obvious, and declaring oneself a Cubist does have an appealing sensationalism.

But I’m cautious because, artistically, it all ended in tears for Cubism – leading directly, according to the Tate website, to Neo-Plasticism. [From which, of course, it was a slippery slope to the ARIS EPC notation ;-) ]

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Mike Gammage is VP and Principal Consultant at Nimbus Partners. Mike has worked in performance improvement consulting, and more recently the BPM space, for more than two decades. He is particularly interested in the overlap between two very dynamic worlds: BPM and perfomance improvement (the drive across all industries to standardise, improve and automate) and sourcing and the virtualisation of the enterprise (the drive to create more flexible and lower-cost service solutions through outsourcing, offshoring and shared services). In either case, Mike believes the enterprise needs a single source of truth about its end-to-end business processes, as well as a framework for the design and implementation of change. It also needs to connect the end-user and all other stakeholders to ensure the adoption of change. These are the keys to sustainable transformation and continuous improvement.