Business Process Management: It Will Never Work

I am a process guy

I make no excuses.  Not everybody sees the world the way I do, we all have different perspectives, some people think process management is a waste of time.  Although I hate to admit it, sometimes, other people’s perspectives are valid.

So, with the aim of fairness I have jotted down the top 3 reasons why business process management won’t work for you (then argued about it):

1.  It isn’t relevant to me

My job is a creative, I work in marketing, or advertising, I am a specialist.  You can’t systematise what I do.

Alexandros of Antioch was the sculptor who created the Venus de Milo.  He could claim that he was a creative.  Sculpture is about as creative as it gets.

It does strike me though, that there are a number of stages that you go through, whatever you are sculpting:

  • Pick a subject, if it is a commission now is a good time to be clear.
  • Do some rough drawings, from all angles.
  • Choose the right material. What will splinter?  What is easy to work?  What will last?
  • Start with a big hammer and chisel.
  • Get out the small chisel.
  • Resort to sand paper.

Clearly I am not a master sculptor, but there is an amount of savoir faire that needs to be applied.  Knowing all of the detail won’t make you a great sculptor, but if you don’t know it you certainly never will be.  Process is only the qualifying factor, but without it you don’t qualify.

2. This will slow me down

I don’t have time to follow all those policies and procedures, checks and balances.  They get in the way of progress.

The response to that one is simple, how much time do you spend re doing what you could have got right first time?  Does that slow you down?

3.  It’s for Geeks

Those process people are so geeky, why would I want to associate myself with them?

It isn’t just for geeks.  Take a fire man for example; assuming he is not drinking tea and reading the Sun, he will be doing one of two things, both of which are heavily process based:

  • Practicing, going over and over standard routines, learning his process.  When you are stuck in a burning building you don’t want somebody plunging in to save you who doesn’t know how to turn on his oxygen or where his mate with the ladder is likely to be.
  • Risk assessing, walking round shops, pubs, night clubs.  Making sure that there is as little as possible that can go wrong.

Shades of Gray?

If you follow the process, right down to the letter, without varying anything will you create anything new?  No.  You will not be creative.

If you wrap yourself up in reams of badly thought through and nonsensical bureaucracy and paperwork will it slow you down?  Yes it will slow you down.

Too much is too much and too little is not enough.  Draw the line where you think it is appropriate, just think about it and be explicit.

The only perspective I just can’t see is the one about geeks.  Do I look like a geek?

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Image by Allan


  1. Dive into Zen Buddhism and you might be struck by the emphasis on The Middle Way. The story goes that the Buddha lived in opulence and that did not work. He also lived as an ascetic – denying himself the very basics of life and living – and that did not work. And in the process of living and experimentation he learned that often the way that works is the Middle Way.

    If we approach the process issue then I believe that too much process (no discretion to do things differently because it makes sense to do things differently) does not work when it comes to the services (people) arena. Neither does the other side of the pendulum – no process at all. Why? Because each person ends up reinventing the wheel and/or a bunch of people have to work together as one unit and that is difficult when each one is “speaking a different language” – each one has his/her way of doing the same thing!

    Having worked in professional services the smartest approach that I have ever been trained in and lived is The Middle Way. In my Ernst & Young days (many years ago) E&Y developed the Fusion methodology. The core idea was to provide a skeletion (that everyone had to use) and then allow each person to flesh out that skeleton to meet his/her particular needs or the needs of the situation at hand. The components needed to flesh out the skeleton were made available – rather like a toolkit – and so we could use any number of these components and configure them to our needs. Or we could create our own components and then share them with our colleagues.

    To conclude: I neither believe in process nor do I disbelieve in process. Belief is ideology and the problem with ideology is that it is not diverse enough to adequately cater to the diversity and dynamic nature of the world in which we are embedded. My focus is on workability and that requires intelligence (thinking about the situation at hand) to determine the appropriate way to approach the situation at hand.

  2. Hi James,
    I wouldn’t like to comment on whether you are a geek or not ;)

    I believe that are two elements to getting stuff done: the art and the way. The balance between the two will depend on the situation. In the fireman’s situation too much art puts peoples lives in danger but in the artists situation too much way can strangle or restrict the freedom that creativity requires to create art.

    Choosing and achieving the fine and right balance is the challenge that we face and that will change depending on the context, situation, culture, time, resources, skills available etc


  3. James Lawther says:

    Thank you for your thoughts guys, I will endeavour to find the third way, though I worry that sets me up for a life in politics.


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