I used to work as a top-flight business process engineer and consultant in the days when business process was still recognised as a potent top-management tool and had not yet been relegated in status. I was expected to hit the ground running at each new commission, despite my remit’s being expressed in the sketchiest of terms. That was scary stuff. Every time was the same – a brief introduction to the team and then left to my own devises.
My first task was to deduce exactly what was required of me. A couple of hours in on day 1, I wouldn’t have a clue. My brain seized up. It was lucky that I am naturally a listener and synthesizer, rather than a questioner. I tried to look erudite and enigmatic instead of blank but otherwise I just observed. No thought in my head, just a background of suppressed panic. My new colleagues must have found me strange to say the least!
In retrospect, I realise that by simply collecting any data that was presented at the various meetings I attended, I was avoiding bias. Questioning would have narrowed the focus too early along lines dictated by my own preconceptions. As it was, my subconscious mind kicked in and neatly synthesized all the data without censorship. Within 3 or 4 hours I would suddenly Know exactly what needed doing and how to do it -not always the most obvious course of action, and it often achieved results that surpassed the expected outcome.
One good example was when I joined a major business process re-engineering and systems development project 3 or 4 weeks after it had started. I was contracted to the company in charge of systems integration for the two processes we were upgrading. Two other IT systems providers were involved.
On my first day (Monday) I attended presentations by the two systems providers, each trying to convince the systems integrator and the end customer that they deserved a bigger slice of the cake. It became clear that no progress had been made with the project. The providers were too busy wrangling amongst themselves.
Although my remit was poorly defined, I was meant to be working on defining current operations. [A waste of time in my view, anyway.] However, having observed the situation, I suddenly got it into my head that the way forward was to get agreement on the future process model so that everyone was clear about the end game. This idea was readily taken up, along with my offer to create ‘Aunt Sally’ models of the two processes to serve as a basis for discussion and refinement at a meeting of the three service providers. The meeting was scheduled for the Thursday.
Having worked on similar processes before, I had no difficulty in designing draft models for the two future processes, being careful to allow room for input and improvement at the meeting.
The meeting went remarkably well and the future structure of both processes was agreed. The surprising outcome was that the exercise demonstrated very clearly that the real expertise of each IT provider lay with one of the processes and the other provider could not compete. So the cake was divided neatly into two – one process for each company – and there were no further arguments. The project progressed well after that. More delay would have cost £ thousands per day.
Now, when I start a new project, I tell myself “Don’t panic! All will become clear. Just pay attention and wait.” While simply observing may postpone finding out some information, I found that allowing time for my subconscious to work and plumbing my hidden knowledge is much more rewarding. If you have faith in your own ability!
Have you had similar experiences? I’d love to hear about them.