Waiting for a train picture

Dave Gray wrote a long post (since removed from the internet) called Wrangling complexity: the service-oriented company.  I confess I got lost in some of the details of it, though I found a few good thoughts like this one,

Most businesses today are not designed with agility in mind. Their systems are tightly coupled, because their growth has been driven by a desire for efficiency rather than flexibility.

Wow.  Think about that.  I know a lot of the business processes I encounter are about safety and internal controls–making sure people don’t do the wrong thing so things run efficiently.  I’m all for checks and balances in the right contexts, but safe and inflexible businesses rarely win.

Many business systems are tightly coupled, like trains on a track, in order to maximize control and efficiency. But what the business environment requires today is not efficiency but flexibility. So we have these tightly coupled systems and the rails are not pointing in the right direction. And changing the rails, although we feel it is necessary, is complex and expensive to do. So we sit in these business meetings, setting goals and making our strategic plans, arguing about which way the rails should be pointing, when what we really need is to get off the train altogether and embrace a completely different system and approach.”

Sometimes internal service organizations make their process so streamlined and efficient to to meet the first product, but with no built in flexibility to meet the needs of future products.

When a new product comes along that has different needs things are doubly inefficient because the service department insists that: 1) The new product must contort itself to fit the existing process, and 2) the new product must be serviced in the same way existing products are serviced.  The result is a process that takes longer than it needs to and an  end product that isn’t as good as it could be.

Photo Credit Chris Smith