Posted by: Adam Deane | 28/03/2011

ACM: Radical Man!

Radical ManRadical ! Man !

Otto: This ACM stuff is sweet, man… I’m really digging it..
Yo, Bart Dude, I’m telling ya.. This ACM stuff is radical! It’s cutting edge. It completely blows me away!

Bart: What’s so good about it?

Otto: It’s dynamic.. it’s adaptive.. it’s cool, man!

Bart: What does it do?

Otto: Donno, but it’s something to do with Case Management, trying to be BPM, but without structured processes

Bart: What the heck are you talking about Otto?

Otto: It’s like the sixties all over again, but now we have adaptive process, adaptive love and adaptive rock n’roll. Yeah baby!

Bart: What’s so good about adaptive process?

Otto: It enables the end-user to decide the route, sweet! More power to the people!

Bart: But Otto, you’re a school bus driver!

Otto: That’s the beauty of it, man. Anyone can do it. You don’t need a license, you don’t follow rules. Pure freedom! Radical!

Bart: You still need to drive to school every day.

Otto: Yeah, but I can take any route I want to the school.

Bart: Eh, Otto. The school is in the opposite direction.

Otto: Cool… Driving can be soooo unpredictable.

Bart: What do you mean by unpredictable?

Otto: Well.. If to be honest – I’m lost. So much freedom… I lost the way…

Bart: Turn around and follow the BPM bus.

Otto: I can’t.. I promised that I’d be the opposite than those BPM hippies. I’ll turn around. Uh oh, better fasten your seatbelts little dudes.

Bart: You’re going the wrong way again.

Otto: The no such thing as wrong in ACM. We just take longer. We don’t fix bottlenecks. We just go around them. Awesome!

Bart: Yeah.. but we’ll be late for school.

Otto: So? Do you care?

Bart: Naahh…. Keep driving….

Otto: Radical!


  1. Radical! Man! (part 2):

    Bart: Anyway, man .. so you don’t like ACM? Too much freedom?

    Otto: How did you get to this idea? You know, the school board thought that I am to stupid to drive a bus, so they gave me this BPM autopilot for the bus and they said that all I had to do follow its direction and then we could guarantee that the bus would be at the school on time following the safest route.

    Bart: Sounds cool, man. So what happened?

    Otto: You know it was weird, dude. First, it means that I am no longer responsible for the safety of the kids, but the guy who programs the BPM autopilot is. So they pay me less or they can lick some idiot without experience. But then the strangest things happened.

    Bart: Like what? I mean if it is all programmed correctly what can go wrong?

    Otto: I mean the guy who thinks about this BPM has never driven a bus, he just knows how to program this BPM autopilot. So he asks me all these strange questions that I really don’t have perfect answer for. I don’t know when and where there will be accidents so that they can program exceptions.

    Bart: Why would they use someone to program this who is not a busdriver? That is stupid.

    Otto: Strange, isn’t it. But programming BPM is so complex that I can’t do it. The point really is that we do get the school on time often, but I always leave several kids behind who were a minute late to the pickup, I am not allowed to pick up new kids until I tell the guy to program them into the passenger manifest, I can’t really drive slower when the road is wet or there is lot of traffic, I am constantly distracted from driving by having to enter reason codes into the BPM autopilots for not hitting a busstop at the right time, and they have roadworks since a few weeks so I can’t use it anyway until they have reprogrammed it. The original guy who programmed it is gone and the new one doesn’t understand it, so he is asking me all these questions again.

    Bart: Sounds like a drag to me.

    Otto: It does, doesn’t it. But because they spent to much money on it the schoolboard told me to just leave the system running as is and ignore it so that it simply shows a good BPM workflow each time. In the statistics we now have a perfect and safe schoolbus network. But in reality?

    Bart: So you got yourself this ACM thing? And that is better?

    Otto: Absolutely. They just defined the basic concepts of buses, roads, maps, passengers, and routes and then the schoolboard entered the stops and the goal schedules. I just do what I know best, which is to drive. They can change the route online every day and I see the new stops immediately. As I told you, it doesn’t tell me how to drive. It just tells me where I am using GPS, what my routepoints and stops are and when I am supposed to be there. When kids enter the bus they swipe their card and we always know if we have them all collected. It tells when I should leave, tells me where the traffic jams and the road works are and makes route suggestions. I pick the one I like. It is also connected to the other buses and if they start to take different routes, I can see that and make my own choice based on that. I feel that I am the one to keep the kids safe and the system is there to help me to do so. It also helps me to plan the route and speed for lowest fuel consumption. The supervisor can check the routes at the end of the day and discuss with the drivers how they can improve safety and efficiency.

    Bart: So you aren’t really lost? But the school is the opposite way.

    Otto: Yeah, man it is. I was just having you on. And we are going to be late a few minutes, but there was an accident on the usual route and we would be stuck in there for some time had the ACM system not warned me of that. With the BPM autopilot I would be right in the middle of it. And the supervisor already knows we will be a few minutes late from the ACM dashboard.

    Bart: Too cool. Otto, you are THE man!

    Otto: I am, ain’t I? With BPM I would be an idiot driver. And that’s just radical …

    • Nice Max, love the comment, good clarification of ACM. And Adam – useful way to put the general understanding of BPM and ACM. Helps clarify how people think about it. Hopefully Max has provided good context around ACM in his response here.

      Hutch Carpenter

  2. Adam,

    What you have touched on here is precisely the worry that Theory X managers have: that workers will lack the knowledge or motivation to go the right way unless there is a system designed to constrain them.

    That is fine if you are talking about a job which is well defined, and you work for the government or some other industry that is heavily protected from competition.

    I reading Charlene Li’s book “Open Leadership” which is 300 pages on the topic of how managers can let go of control, and what benefit they can expect. Leaders are urged to give up bureaucracy, and let people run with ideas. Following “Groundswell” and in the same line as “Empowered” it is how companies are giving people like Otto a chance to prove their intelligence. They mentor people using proven techniques for mentoring, not just replacing training with “enforcement by BPM”. Like any workplace, there will be a few like Otto who are not up to the task, but the benefit really comes when someone DOES have a good idea, they are able to win a tremendous deal that makes up for the slackards.

    How many Dilbert comic strips do you have to read before you realize that the old control oriented bureaucracies are inefficient. Enforcing people to take the predicted path does not help either.

    Replace the name “Otto” with “Marc Benioff” It is absolutely true, the CEO of Salesforce might go crazy and drive in completely the wrong direction. But there is no BPM that exists (and never will be) to handle that situation. It is not just the CEO, but an increasingly large part of the organization are doing job that have no predefined path.

    As Max points out, we need to provide different tools. Instead of pre-programming the exact route, we give drivers GPS and traffic alerts. We support the worker, but do not replace their decision-making ability. They might drive the wrong way, but then they might be far more successful than any BPM designer could have imagined.

    It depends upon having intelligent people driving who know their profession. That is why the analogy with Otto driving is not helpful in understanding how ACM works.

    • As I say in my reply to Ashish, there are many flavors in this ice cream shop, and the right choice for each business depends on the level of regulation, complexity of the business, frequency with which processes are performed, compliance, contract terms and, of course, creativity. These factors in most companies result in the need to have varying levels of control depending on the particulars of the business. A BPMN-based system lacking governance would make traditional BPM a rigid approach. A well-governed system that allows for change, exceptions, and manages the social conversations (like a peer review) would not be rigid at all.

  3. I’m really sitting on the fence here. Nope, not fence, but I would sit in different bus depending on from where am I going where. Sometimes, there indeed is a shortest path, well known, and driven by traffic signals that are governed by the drivers, but by regulatory and law & order bodies. We would all want a control-free zone in our lives, but the fact is – they exist. As long as they exist, you cannot build the tools only for the idealistic world that we dream about. We need to have ways to facilitate the intelligent worked but also need to control if any dumb ones get in. Similarly, you need to empower in all possible manner, the intelligent, self-motivated and thinking and working heads. One needs to provide opportunities, and one needs to have the guard-rails too. Whether it’s 90-10, or 80-20, or 50-50 or even 10-90, I don’t care. I would just not do a one size-fits-all for any of the solutions we’re talking about.

    Somehow, I see that these can coexist, in the same organizations, same groups, and even in the same platform/product/tool – and in BPM community too. Why not attempt that instead of continuing to building fortresses. Let’s get over the “v/s” thing between BPM, ACM and Adaptive, and look for synergy – can we?

    • A well-thought reply, Ashish. Reality is what we see in business, not what we argue and rail against. What I see on the ground, in my customers is a need to have prescribed processes for things that are regulated (UPS needs to ship controlled medications, Northrop Grumman needs to deliver F-18’s within precise contract terms, Nestle must get FDA approval of their baby food testing process). At the same time, my customers need to do things that are outside the box (UPS moving into logistics, Northrop Grumman doing rapid prototyping to be able to respond to a threat in Afghanistan, Nestle needs to create new markets in new regions of the World).

  4. […] “How can you not understand the power of ACM?”. “ACM is the future!” It’s also great fun teasing them a […]

  5. […] Management (ACM). A simplistic and humourous take on both is well exemplified in Adam Deane’s ACM: Radical Man! and its equally competent […]

  6. […] Minimal structure: Activities that are undefined or open to innovation but should involve collaboration between stakeholders and perhaps peers. My approach suggestions won’t end the arguments on the topic. To get a feel for how passionate this argument is (and enjoy true creativity), read Adam Deane’s ACM: Radical Man! […]

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