Posted by: Adam Deane | 01/12/2010

BPM: Organisational Chaos

Company ChaosIn every organsation there is always some level of internal politics.
It’s part of the fun…

The Veteran – The old-timer that has been in the company for years and years. He’s stuck in his ways, no budging. He’s not going to change the way he works, and nobody will be able to convince him otherwise.
The business process will need to run around him…

The VIP – the “manager” that everything has to go through his approval, or all hell will break loose. Doesn’t matter if he is really needed or not, he demands to included. “I am in charge of..”
The process will need to go through him…

The KOD (kiss of death) – the “special one” that everything he touched turns into a disaster.
The process will need to steer well away from him…

The Indecisive – the manager that never provides a decision.
The person that you know that will be a process bottleneck.
If he takes 2 days to answer a simple email now, why would he change?
The process will need to embed a bottleneck release for his step in the process…

These are just a few of the employee types in a typical organisation.

Designing a Business Proccess – Internal Politics
The proper and correct way to design a business process – is to disregard any internal politics, focus on building a solution that will solve the business pain.
Design the process around the process, not around users.

But can you really disregard internal politics?

In real life it’s harder. Not impossible, but harder.
In every organisation you pick your battles. User acceptance is a real issue when implementing a BPM solution. You want the process to be accepted and used by the end-users. You need their cooporation to make it succeed.

Implementing a business process always involves change.
You know there will always be an element of resistance to change. Should you take it into consideration when designing the the process, or not?

How do you design a business process that will be efficent, will solve the business pain, and will overcome internal politics?


  1. Thanks, Adam. It is really easy to get past the internal politics problem!

    Simply DO NOT DESIGN business processes. Just execute them as the way they are (which makes no sense with the cost of doing BPM so you need something else than dumb flowcharts to deal with this) and then what is going on will be transparent and they will improve or they won’t. If they won’t because of internal politics, at least you have a record of who does what when.

    You are absolutely right the people interactions are a lot more important than a designed process flow, which is no more than an illusion. Processes emerge from people interaction using resources and information. They can’t be designed.

    Thanks, as always great real-world observations!

    • Thanks Max,

      Don’t forget that sometimes you get called into an organisation to implement a solution that they have already put together.
      It might be wrong, it might be counter-productive, but it is theirs to decide.
      I can try to convince, explain the logic, show better alternatives, and even plead… but in the end = they are the paying customer.


      • Hi Adam, if anyone believes that my longrange perspective is simply accepted by a large organisation then he doesn’t know this environment. That doesn’t stop me to recommend the best approach even if they decide for something else. In the real world you never get to do things perfectly, which is why an idealistic, fully-designed BPM approach is wrong. My point is exactly that one: I know that the businesses aren’t ideal and therefore a down-to-earth, people focused approach is best.

        I NEVER start on a green lawn at one of my customers. It rather is mostly a jungle of existing products that we need to live and integrate with. Despite the ADAPTIVE capability our customers do a lot of simple CASES and rigid PROCESSES as well. The point is that THEY chose but are not limited by the technology.

        But I do tell them that it pays to keep it simple and get rid of some of the engineering chaos that they have today. But that takes until the people who put it in move on. it is not wrong. That is life. Thanks again.

  2. We consider business processes as a way to make the coordination (a “thing” which can be improved in many enterprises) explicit and we architect an enterprise BPM system which enables easily changing of processes (minimally templates).

    Drawbacks of the first version and some initial improvements (mainly based on the practical work of participants) will be quickly taken into account. We noticed that a few iterations are usually enough.

    Concerning the resistance to change – we explain to the users how their concerns will be addressed and how their current working practices will be changed for the better.


    • Hi Alexander,

      Thanks for the comment.
      My only problem with “explaining to users” is that when you have an organisation with 14000 users, explaining to each and every one of them, or addressing all of their concerns – is difficult.


  3. Well, Adam, what other rationale could explain the high paybacks for the consultants, account managers, program managers and even intermediate IT managers? They exist to make things work in these jungle… 🙂 We all know the real challenges are not with technology but handling whims and fancies of stakeholders…!

  4. … And there’s a systemic way of looking at the challenge –

    But, if you’re not a ranks-puller highly placed leader/manager, you can’t do these things… goes back to interpersonal management skills. 🙂

  5. Hi Adam,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I faced the same problem many years ago and my experience in resolving it is in my book.

    Several following considerations can help you reaching your audience:
    1. There are several groups of people involved ( and you need an initial story for each group
    2. You need to win the “critical mass” of the audience not everyone
    3. You should have a very good architecture of your enterprise BPM system/solution because a lot of concerns are not 100 % BPM-related.


  6. I guess the internal politics issue is a special case of the common consultant’s dilemma.

    What should a consultant say to a customer: what he things is right and best for the customer or what the customer wants to hear?
    – In the former case there is a risk of irritating the customer: “why do you think you are so smart?”
    – In the latter the customer will ask himself after a while: “is there anything we’ve got from the job that we didn’t know in advance?”

    The ideal consultant must express an opinion honestly, the ideal customer must listen, decide and have will to implement.

    Yet in my practice it’s all too far from the ideal.

    In order to respond adequately to consultant’s advice, including deficiencies found, one must be a strong and self-confident leader. Appreciate deficiencies, treat them not as flaws but as opportunities for improvements. This is usually not the case on the upper floor, not mentioning the middle level where it mostly causes panic.

    Getting in this situation, the consultant comes to logical conclusion: since I can’t benefit the customer then let me benefit myself. Who can blame him? The only problem is that if he benefited himself once and twice then at third it becomes a habit and the benefit of the customer isn’t a priority anymore.

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