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Two Principles for Change

Here’s a common business paradigm.

“A business enterprise is a combination of People, Process and Technology.”

This modest archetype provides a simple means with which to encapsulate business scope - which is of particular use when applied to any form of transformational activity. The three pillars remind us to address all three components of the business equally and apply change holistically, without overlooking the impact on any single part.

However, the paradigm is so basic it lacks useful application. Because it doesn’t convey the relationship between the three components, it gives little away with regards how we should best approach business change. So a different, richer paradigm is needed, one that infers the relationship between the three components and can be used to inform our approach to business change. Here’s an alternative.

“A business enterprise is the sum of its processes, which are only ever realised through people and/or technology.”

  • The Process is the principal component. It determines what objectives are to be achieved and the means by which they will be fulfilled. It is what the business does. However, it is entirely conceptual and relies on an implementation for it to become tangible - to make it real. It is made real by the actions of its actors, which are People and Technology.

  • People are our ‘Complex’ actors. They are intelligent. They think for themselves, apply learning and experience to decision making, are emotional, and have personalities.

  • Technology on the other hand, represents our ‘Simple’ actors. Systems (ignoring AI for simplicity) do what they are told, what they are programmed to do, and are unemotional and utterly bereft of personality.

This alternative paradigm is more useful it because draws out two important principles.

  • Firstly, that any business change must be process-orientated. This means that, in order to deliver our business change objectives, every design and implementation decision is anchored to the business process. Quite simply, process is king - process must always come first.

  • The second principle is that a process only exists in its implementation. While this might seem blindingly obvious it is nonetheless highly significant. It implies that process design artefacts, such as process maps, process descriptions, work-level instructions, etc. are nothing more than models – approximate ones at that. The corollary to all this is that the only way to reliably verify business change is always to test the final process implementation – operational process testing. This is so frequently overlooked.

By exposing the relationship that exists between the three components in the original paradigm, it has been possible to expose two obvious truisms - two basic principles that can be used to guide the right approach to business change. Held tight, they will increase the likelihood of delivering sought change outcomes. Overlook them at your own risk.

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