Recreating Our Processes

Some COBIT processes focus on the need to re-invent your organization. Innovation, for example, is always a matter of re-inventing, re-engineering or continually improving. Successful businesses are always in a constant process of re-invention. If you are not re-inventing your business, your competitors will overtake your business and you will be but a footnote in history. Innovation is the tactical part of strategic thinking. Strategy defines an endpoint, and through continual improvement you can modify the business to reach that point. Through continual improvement you change the structure of the business.

Why focus on continuous continual improvement? In Lean IT, we talk about Kaizen and Kaikaku. Kaizen is change for the better: it is generally gradual and continual. And it involves the people: it is not imposed upon the people. Most organizations cannot handle fundamental or radical change, that is, Kaikaku, as it requires great awareness and desire. The reason is quite simple. Organizations have a maximum increase in complexity that they can bear. Should we make some kind of improvement, we must readapt the business to balance complexity otherwise our business becomes increasingly fragile. The more complex the business is, the more difficult it is to manage. We can manage the business only when we eliminate functionality that is not required. The method—whether ISO 9001, Kaizen, Kaikaku, Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, ITIL CSI 7 Steps—is not important, it is the standardization and improvement that matters.

Organizations must break their addiction to service heroes. In many organizations, we get things done because staff go above and beyond the call of duty. While laudable, it is not productive nor conducive to improvement. These heroes spend a lot of time in firefighting mode and making themselves indispensable so they don’t have time to work on process standardization or improvement. You know that old chestnut from John Wooden: “If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” But, heroism in your processes really is a red flag. As long as heroes exist, fixing problems through their super-human efforts, your organization will not confront process problems. These problems will fester until it is too late. Then you will find that you are not just standing still but you are falling behind. You will quickly fall from your controlled environment to a chaotic one and the drop is abrupt and harsh.

When improving your processes remember one simple message: you cannot be good at everything. This is a difficult statement for organizations when they do process capability assessment or capability maturity modeling as they think they must score 5 in every process. I have had clients tell me they want to rate 5 in every process. Good luck is what I tell them. Not only is this not feasible, but it is a waste of resources. For IT services, trying to do it all brilliantly will lead almost inevitably to mediocrity overall. Excellence requires sacrifice. Just ask any elite athlete. You must be weak somewhere in the service of good. To deliver great service on the criteria that your customers value most, you must underperform on those they value less. This means you must have the fortitude to do some things less than good. This concept does not sit well with some executives and may seem immoral to others, such as a hospital administrator. This is why we perform the act of goal cascading for strategic alignment: to triage the processes to determine where we need to be good. If you intend to be good at everything, then why do the cascading?

Once you accept the idea of compromise—and break your addiction to heroes—you will find your foray into service excellence easier to fathom. But now you must do the tough stuff, which is to understand thoroughly who your customers are and what they truly require and want. This necessitates deep insight into your customers, which is a topic for another time.

By Peter T. Davis, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, COBIT Foundation, COBIT Implementation, COBIT Assessor, COBIT INCS, CISSP, CPA, CMA, CMC, ITIL FC, ISO 9001 FC, ISO 20000 FC/LI/LA, ISO 27001 LI/LA, ISO 27005/31000 RM, ISO 28000 FC, ISTQB CTFL, Lean IT FC, Open FAIR FC, PMI-RMP, PMP, PRINCE2 FC, SSGB, RESILIA FC is the principal of Peter Davis+Associates, a management consulting firm specializing in IT governance, security and audit. He currently teaches COBIT 5 Foundation/Implementation/Assessor, ISO 27001 Foundation/Lead Implementer/Lead Auditor, ISO 31000/ISO 27005 Risk Manager (RM), ISO 20000 FC/LI/LA, ISO 22301 Foundation, ISO 9001 Foundation and Project Management Institute Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP) courses.

Category: COBIT

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