Posted by: Adam Deane | 04/05/2011

BPM: Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch

Band-aidThis is one those posts where I find it hard articulating the point I’d like to make:
There currently isn’t a BPM solution that solves organisational culture issues

BPM solves the problem of manual work automation nicely, it solves business process issues nicely, it even solves compliance, governance, auditing and process visibility nicely.

But one of the business pains BPM hits again and again is organisational culture changes, and BPM doesn’t have a full solution for this.

Gartner’s Elise Olding advised embeding organizational change techniques in all BPM project work. “Use BPM efforts to design and implement the organizational liquidity (and metrics) to enable the appropriate level of organizational agility”

But for someone who manages BPM projects for a living, I find myself uneasy trying to embed organizational change techniques.
I understand the need… I understand the value… its the “how” that I struggle with.

Forrester’s Connie Moore articulated this problem nicely in her post on Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch

For a long time, we’ve steered away from these “soft” topics because they are so squishy and hard to get your arms around. But the trouble in pinning this topic down only underscores the fact that business change management is a tough issue for business process professionals, particularly if they are driving business transformation or business process improvement initiatives throughout their organizations. And it is so true: You can set a strategic direction, envision a new future, transform your processes, and so forth, but your existing culture can completely eat your new strategy for lunch. To overcome this very real problem, you have to take concrete actions to change the culture. And that’s a tall order for any business process executive.

The easy way out would be to say “Human nature is difficult”, “It’s all about education”, “You need special people to deal with it”, “BPM software vendors can’t help here and shouldn’t try to intervene”

It’s easy to say that BPM software cannot help solve culture organisational issues. Untrue. We just haven’t invented the right software solution yet to help address this issue.
It’s easy to say that BPM implementers shouldn’t be used to help solve culture organisational issues. I disagree.
It’s easy to say that BPM is about business processes and shouldn’t deal with organisational culture. I disagree. We would be just sticking our head in the sand.

BPM currently provides a partial solution to the organisation’s business pain.
It’s a good solution, but incomplete.

It might take time, but until someone comes up with a solution for organisational culture issues – BPM will be just be another organisational band-aid.


  1. Great post Adam:

    I would add that there currently isn’t a BPM, ERP, CRM, ACM, ECM, EDMS [you get my drift?] solution, that addresses or resolves organisational culture issues. Change management has always been and will always be the key to the success of any solution/project and change management is always faced with the ‘challenge’ that is organisational culture.

    • Jon, I need to disagree. Sorry. The way I define Adaptive Processes (ACM) it includes the complete change management principle from the business strategy down and from the perform up. A typical BPMS needs a change bureuacracy. In the adaptive paradigm the corporate culture defines how processes are created, modified and used ntothe software. The software empowers the business to make use of it as they see fit. Btu the more you empower people on all levels, the more changes will be possible from all directions.

      If you go BPM and set up a PCoE bureaucracy? … good luck with changing culture!

  2. Hi Adam – can you provide a real life example of where you’ve encountered this problem? BPM Software is just part of the big BPM puzzle. To me BPM is so much more than just software and process.

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