What a game of golf teaches you about process

When discussing ACM Adaptive Case Management with business people they rightly want to know what it will do for the business. I suggest that the question should be: ‘What it will do for my customers?’ This we will elaborate on in the upcoming webinar on June 26th, 2012 at 11am ET (4pm UK, 5pm CET) with guest speaker Derek Miers, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, Inc.

The Webinar is titled: Standing out from the Crowd – Engage the Business to deliver Compelling Customer Experiences

The ability to manage not only cases and processes, but internal programs and projects and connect them to strategic objectives and operational targets ensures that processes aren’t just executed as analyzed, but actually as a positive customer experience requires. It is the next step for BPM to enable business to create and perform as required without the need for complex projects.

Let’s not forget that business processes represent business knowledge and therefore Peter Drucker’s following warning applies:

“Knowledge is different from all other resources. It makes itself constantly obsolete, so that today’s advanced knowledge is tomorrow’s ignorance.”

Which means that some process that is good enough today will be obsolete tomorrow. Standardizing processes may seem to be cheaper but it actually dumbs down your business. Change programs as part of BPM initiatives are restrained by the complexity of flow-diagram analysis and the need for experts to implement those processes. Additionally, a compelling customer experience requires many processes that can’t be predefined and require continuous application of expert knowledge to complete, as Gartner Analyst Janelle Hill writes in her latest research.

Adaptive Case Management is the next step for BPM

‘The Case for Case Management’ is an excellent summary of the direction that process management has taken with the advent of ACM. Janelle Hill describes case management as a form of process management with advanced capabilities. She writes:

“More work today is being seen as case-like in industries, beyond government, law and healthcare, which have long handled work as cases. Newer areas include mortgage origination, university admissions, grants management and customer complaints. For example, the recent financial crisis and rising regulatory requirements have caused many banks to begin looking at mortgage processing as a case, rather than a form-driven transactional process.”

Janelle also acknowledges the need for milestones and goals, as well as content state changes as the key drivers in progressing the case work. Such functionality is not available in orthodox BPM products, which means that they have to be implemented by coding making the creation of processes more complex, longer and expensive. By encoding the goal-oriented functionality, the process loses the potential for adaptive execution. Janelle adds:

“Since the progression of work cannot be completely anticipated during design, any solution must be able to accommodate more flexibility in the execution of each case, often using decisions, events and content-state changes to trigger the next step in the workflow. Also, many areas of case management work rely on milestones — that is, points in the process at which all data is compared and viewed holistically — with a decision made about how to progress the case further. Casework that exhibits this milestone/data-based approach is commonly referred to as “adaptive case management”. Casework also tends to be long in duration, taking days, weeks or even years to complete.”

Such long-running casework is for example strategic planning, budgeting, change or HR programs, and all kinds of projects that implement the business capabilities with or without IT.

Play the game of business!

The term ‘business process’ is however heavily overloaded with the concept of the flow-diagram. That definition reduces the ability of many people to imagine that one could describe or perform business processes any other way. So I have been searching another simile after I have used boating in the past. One does plan the route of a vessel on a chart, and the execution requires a target location, teamwork skills, adaptation to weather, waypoints and continuously identifying current location.

In my keynote speech on our current roadshow series I am now using the game of golf as a simile to describe how an adaptive process or case is defined and executed. There is simply no way that one can play a game of golf according to a flowchart. Goals and rules are more important. Sandy Kemsely wrote a recent blog post about the use of rules as an integral part of the process, which I have been advocating for a long time.

Golf exhibits all the properties that a well-defined business process should have:

  1. Define a simple and clear goal
  2. A few simple rules as constraints
  3. PAR gives you a best practice score
  4. Ways to restart in case of failure
  5. A minimum skill is necessary to play
  6. Practice improves the skill to apply within the rules
  7. Coaching helps players (performers) to get better
  8. Each player uses a different tactic according to skill
  9. The most efficient player wins (least strokes)

If all processes were designed like this then work could actually be fun. Golf accounts for the fact that humans are individuals and different. I propose that Golf as a game is a great example how to make process management more human.

You might argue that Golf is not a team game and thus does not apply to business process. I disagree and propose that it teaches us how to use and improve people skills while reaching the goal each time. To consider process teamwork, Michael Hammer has used the simile of a football game. He said that the coach will assign his players roles according to skill and then train them to execute, but he does not go out on the playing field to tell his players which step to take. Which game to play and which tactic is the decision of the quarterback, who represents the responsible process owner. Much as I propose in Strategic ACM, Hammer says that the team has to understand the general strategy and be trained to apply the tactics. The unpredictable opponent doesn’t allow blind execution. And finally, if you want to win you don’t choose the cheapest players but the best.

Please join us for the webinar on June 26th to discuss how to apply this in your business.

I am the founder and Chief Technology Officer of Papyrus Software, a medium size software company offering solutions in communications and process management around the globe. I am also the owner and CEO of MJP Racing, a motorsports company focused on Rallycross or RX, a form of circuit racing on mixed surfaces that has been around for 40 years. I hold 8 national and international championship titles in RX. My team participates in the World Championship along Petter Solberg, Sebastian Loeb and Ken Block.

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4 comments on “What a game of golf teaches you about process
  1. […] latest blog post ’what a game of golf teaches you about process’ is worth […]


  2. […] ACM and Customer Experiences – Max J. Pucher The ability to manage not only cases and processes, but internal programs and […]


  3. I like your comparison of how golf and how it exhibits all the properties that a well-defined business process should have. Interesting comparison.


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Max J. Pucher

Max J. Pucher - Chief Architect ISIS Papyrus Software

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by Max J. Pucher. All rights reserved.
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