The Framework Dilemma

Reading the literature on process management and performance improvement, one discovers a plethora of frameworks that purport to be the best known way to approach a process improvement initiative. The rigor of Six Sigma’s ubiquitous Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control framework is complemented by the Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Validate framework of DFSS (Design for Six Sigma). The good folks at TouchPoint have us traverse a rigorous set of phases called Organization Strategy, Process Architecture, Launch Pad, Understand, Innovate, People, Develop, Implement, Realize Value and Sustainable Performance. [1] The Business Process Management Group has their 8 Omega Framework (Discovery, Analysis, Design, Validate, Integrate, Implement, Control, Improve) and Rummler-Brache has given us Assess, Define, Develop, Deploy and Sustain. Not to be overlooked is the entirely relevant McKinsey 7S framework (Strategy, Structure, Systems, Skills, Shared Values, Staff and Style).

And that’s just a taste! Perr&Knight, of course, offers its own methodology (which I promote heavily) as do countless other consultancies. Is there a best method?

The answer: yes, there is! All of these frameworks have an underlying great grandfather in the work of W. Edwards Deming. His Plan, Do, Check, Act [2] methodology provided the foundation for all of these frameworks. Each new manifestation of this simple idea (we need to first plan, then implement, then evaluate, and then take action based on that evaluation) is the core principle underlying any process improvement initiative. A good BPM practitioner will understand the history – the source of the knowledge and the path of its evolution. History provides a foundation for genuine understanding, and the ability to trace the path of a discipline to its roots is the mark of thoroughness and expertise. Knowing the basic, underlying principles helps cut through the clutter as the critical idea, lost in a cacophony of competing frameworks, leaps out at you, regardless of the specific framework you’re determined to embrace.

[1] Their recent book, Business Process Management: Practical Guidelines to Successful Implementations authored by Lead Consultants John Jeston and Johan Nelis is an impressive body of work, and I’d say essential reading for anyone truly interested in BPM.

[2] While Deming is widely credited with the PDCA cycle, he actually called it “PDSA” for Plan, Do, Study, Act. While this came to be known as the “Deming Cycle,” it was actually a derivative of Walter Shewhart’s Plan, Do, See framework from the 1920s.