Don’t pave the cow path
Recently I had the great opportunity to provide BPM training to a client embarking on a BPM program. The CIO kicked off the 2 day BPM training with “Don’t pave the cow path”. His message was, don’t look at how we do business today but instead look at how we want to do business tomorrow. He went on to say “Think about our customers and our employees, trends in our business and current problems and design a future that improves how we operate today – don’t just pave the cow path.”
I think it is a natural tendency to want to pave the cow path; after all, what is wrong with how we are doing business today? Or we may look at it from the perspective – we don’t have time to look at improving our processes, so by default we will have to pave the cow path.
Before we go much further, what is meant by paving the cow path? To me it means that we tend to automate how we do business today and incorporate little if any process efficiencies or new ways to look at our processes. So what do we do so we don’t pave the cow path?
Once you have a well-defined business problem, scope the area of business process that impacts the business problem. Now the big tendency is to pave the cow path, but don’t pave the cow path, rather look at the cow path to see how you make it better, maybe straighter, less rocky and less hilly. This does not mean you need to analyze the cow path and every little stone on the path, but look for improvement opportunities with the big picture in mind, how do we make it better?
As you leave looking at your current cow path and look forward to determining and designing how you can make the cow path less hilly and straighter, ensure the new road (after all we are hopefully moving beyond a path) goes in a direction that the organization wants. Also look at the new road not only from the organizations perspective, but also from our Customers perspective. How will they walk the road? Where do we need to put up signs to help direct them? Will they adopt the new road?
Also ensure you teach (I really want to use the word Cows here, but I think that would be to offensive) organizational staff the new road and why it is the road chosen. After all, you don’t want to have the organization destroy the new road and return to the old cow path.
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