ACM Empowerment or BPM Enforcement?

Some BPM consultants propose that processes are the most important corporate asset. I disagree because a process is an abstract entity that produces no value. Value is defined by human interaction and perception in the real world. While abstract processes promise to make that human interaction more controllable they ignore human nature and workplace psychology, much as socialism and communism do. These are idealistic concepts that fail in the real world of individual human agents. People are at their best when they feel that their contribution is valued as an individual. Therefore the idea of empowerment – making people responsible for their work – has been around for some time.

Why you would want to empower employees?

Empowerment is often misunderstood as authority for decisionmaking for everyone about anything. Empowerment is about assigning authority, goals and means to the right people. Some tries at empowerment have failed to show the hoped for results because they followed the idea that all people are the same. The most important element of empowerment is the realization that people are essential, but that they have different skills and interests. Not clever and dumb, or lazy and hardworking, but just people in the wrong place. Empowerment is a better way of people management that enables a stronger customer focus.

I go with the 80/20 Pareto rule. 20% of people are responsible for 80% of results. But one can not fire the other 80% of people as the remaining would again structure the same. It means that only 20% of people have the interest and capability to take responsibility. I see them as process owners (PO) who can be given goals to chase. 20% is actually enough as the ideal team size is ten which provides one teamleader and one assistant/stand-in per team.

Empowerment requires two important elements: first, a people focus as above and second, business and process transparency. Transparency is best achieved by a collaborative process support infrastructure such as provided by Adaptive Case Management. It won’t be your run-of-the-mill BPM/SOA software. Transparency enables monitoring of (business) goal achievement of each team to verify if goals are set sensibly and well understood. There are no flows for the process of a PO, but simply a hierarchy of goals and tasks, driven by states and events. POs are empowered to question goals and can decide to change the way their goals are achieved.

What does Papyrus ACM provide to empower people in a process-owning business?

  1. Forget flowcharts and focus on GOALS: A process flow focus requires bureaucracy for process improvements. Goal orientation enables the business to link all management hierarchies simply together and does not require additional metrics. The goal is the metric and it must be directly linked to the perception of the customer.
  2. Define the process owners: Model the structure of process owners for all processes that you need to improve. Map out through which real-world deliverables they serve each other. Define the hierarchy of goals.
  3. Customer service goals: The goal achievement (customer satisfaction) optimization loop must be responsibility of that process owner. A normal flowchart can not redesign and optimize itself.
  4. Real-time business data: The process owner needs real-time business data to measure his goal achievement and the authority to execute towards those goals. IT is essential for that to add the transparency that the PO and the executive needs.
  5. Define real-world entities only: Real world entities to be delivered to a customer according to cost and quality goals are plausible. Process flow is abstract and not understood.
  6. States – Events – Rules: Real world entities that have plausible states and are linked together with rules create plausible process states and can be easily improved by adding new entities, new rules and new actors without redesign.
  7. Do not fragment process execution: Most BPM analyst and consultants propose that you need multiple best-of-breed BPM products to cover all process needs. That is not sensible, because each process might change over time to require different process concepts. The process environment must allow new process concepts to be defined and used within the same infrastructure. Structured (20%), Dynamic (60%) and Ad-Hoc social processes (20%) must all be handled in one system.
  8. Service and Support processes are the same: Deliverables in all process types are achievable with the same adaptive, goal oriented state/event/rule model. Using an adaptive process model reduces the need for support meta-processes such as change management dramatically. The functional change management of the processes must be part of the process platform and executable by the process owners.


So why would empowerment work better than stick and carrot, known as reward and punishment, or strict quality monitoring? Each action in an empowered organization drives productivity forward, while rigidly planned organizations (hierarchically or not) waste bureaucratic energy on analysis and designs, policing procedures and reward/punishment systems. Not only that, but each controlling or monitoring action, and each reward will cause counterproductive forces in the organization.


About Max J. Pucher

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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