Process, enterprise 2.0, lean and agility

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Summary: enterprise 2.0 has often been shown as the opposite of formal organizations and processes that have been the rule until then. What raised a keen interest from and fear for others who know that enterprises, organizations with a production purpose, can’t live without processes. In “Enterprise 2.0 and processes”, Yves Caseau shows that putting the one against the other in a Manichean way is wrong and to what extent each one improves and completes the other.

I usually don’t write about french books on this blog, for obvious reasons. By definition, most of the audience I have here can’t read french and even for those who do, prices are too expensive on amazon.com for imported books. But I decided to make an exception for this one because I think it brings a new way of considering things that is worth knowing about for anyone.

This book is Processus et Entreprise 2.0 (Processes and enterprise 2.0 in english), and is about innovation and collaboration through lean management. It’s by Yves Caseau, Senior VP at Bouygues Telecom (large Telco, part of the Bouygues Group). This book is interesting because it makes us look at enterprise 2.0 with a new point of view in this kind of literacy and gives it, in my opinion, a new relevance that lots of CxOs many have not seen until then. As a matter of fact, the common vision focused on social media/communities/passion/engagement often turns its back on value measurement and relies on the only fact one is a believer or not. What I often call “Enterprise Denial” made the message hard to get in “our” european cultural context relying on rational scepticism. Caseau’s approach is different : it starts with processes and shows that enterprise 2.0 is the only possible way to keep them efficient in the future.

Let’s start with some words as an aside. Even if this movement may look odd, I did not came to enterprise 2.0 by the web but by short cuts that were more about operations efficiency.Many parts of  the management side of enterprise 2.0 (or, rather, all the things one should wonder to avoid staying in a world of angelic illusion), have things in common with Theory Of Constraints (anyone should have read The Goal at least once in his life). It’s also impossible to deny that new forms of management we are promoting can be found in Deming’s 14 points, Deming who had also a clear understanding of what what wrong in our economy….30 years ago. The list is very long… It’s interesting, even surprising, to see how the manufacturing industry has solved agility, quality, improvement issues while the world of services and knowledge relying on intangible flows is still struggling. Maybe because the intangible nature of flows makes visual management impossible or makes it easy not to see things one don’t want to see ? Maybe. We’ll discuss this in a future post.

So let’s come back to Caseau’s book. Rather than starting with the assumption that 2.0 (or social) is the answer to anything and try to make the enterprise fit in, he starts with the opposite approach. He starts with problems and ends with a solution that appears to be enterprise 2.0. Like it or not but enterprises are organized on processes that are essential and vital and this won’t change. I’m to talking about the caricature of processes we’re being inflicted to make it too easy to hold them up to public ridicule. but what they should be. Caseau makes it clear that processes should be as light as possible to be manageable, as agile as possible to be improvable. Hence the importance of lean management. Things become really interesting when enterprise 2.0, rather than being seen as a danger for steadiness and processes appears than being a lever that serves agility and innovation. In this context, conversational systems support ongoing learning, innovation and ongoing improvement.

He ends with the necessary cultural of human sided of this necessary change.

Contrary to what some like to promote, processes should not disappear but become people centric to make sense, be understandable, drivable, manageable, improvable. As a matter of fact, processes are here to serve both people and the enterprise while the reality is more about people serving processes. Caseau gives us an “understandable” explanation of the world of processes, quality, Lean, Lean Six Sigma and hits the nail on the head on things like KPIs, information flows management, meetings (that are the more elementary form of exchange…)…

This book will appeal to people who don’t see a clear link between the new paradigm and what the enterprise and its operations are about or see it rather like a danger. A technical book that those who love incantations, acts of faith and fairy tales may enjoy less but that reminds us that 2.0 and social are here to serve the organization. I endlessly repeat that enterprise 2.0 increases the human and knowledge capital that can be tapped to better process execution….that’s what all the book is about.

If I had to summarize the book in one sentence I’d say “looking at the future, feet on the ground”.

Processus et entreprise 2.0 is available on Amazon. It’s so expensive oversees that buying it on amazon.fr and having it shipped could be a better option. I think it’s also available on iTunes for iPad owners.