The Book behind XeP3

Implementing Strategic Change:
Managing Processes and Interfaces to Develop a Highly Productive Organization

Authors: Tom Bevington & Professor Danny Samson

Book cover 'Implementing Strategic Change: Managing Processes and Interfaces to Develop a Highly Productive Organization' seeks to develop a new understanding of how organisations work. It presents managers with a once in a lifetime opportunity to deliver huge performance gains because it:

  • universally applies to all organisations;
  • always delivers an enormous bottom-line benefit;
  • can be implemented quickly;
  • delivers the world's best practice.

The authors, Tom Bevington & Professor Danny Samson, show how 'top-down' strategies can best be fitted with precision to 'bottom-up' processes and process improvements.

This book has therefore been written for two groups of people.

  • The first are the many board members or managers who feel that their organisation has exhausted the traditional strategy agenda but intuitively know that the organisation could do a lot better.
  • The second is for managers who may have the reins of a once good business that has lost its way and are looking for something to galvanize action to make up lost ground.

'Implementing Strategic Change' shows the way to transform an organisation into a best practise 'highly productive organisation' with more power than ever thought previously possible. The key is to identify all the 'interfacing activities' (the authors' term to describe 'invisible', undocumented activities or processes which staff carry out to enable transactions to move from one process step to the next. They are also known as hand-off activities) efficiently and then eliminate those 20 per cent that cause 80 per cent of the problems. The total amount of waste in organisations that currently averages some 33.6 per cent of activity (or $25,000/annum/employee) can be halved with precision and efficiency, and it is possible to go even further.

Having assembled a uniquely detailed database of 117 organisations that furnished material in a consistent way to show how business processes functioned, Bevington and Samson are able to support every conclusion with solid evidence, as well as provide plenty of anecdotes to bring them to life.

The book identifies and details the key obstacles to achieving an organisation that functions as a well-oiled machine. These interfacing difficulties do not apply to all dealings but when they do happen, they can have a toxic effect, causing major disruption and delays downstream in the business if they are not dealt with expeditiously. They distract staff from doing the job they are supposed to be doing and thus cause a great deal of frustration within the organisation.

Supported by extensive research over five years, the authors show that the 'exception' activities are actually not unusual or exceptional at all in most organisations, but that they 'happen all the time'. Their research shows that these undocumented activities outnumber documented activities by at least 3:1. They occur primarily because business processes are poorly specified or poorly connected. Most of these interfacing activities are made up of the five Cs: check, correct, complete, chase and handle the consequences – activities which the authors term as interfacing activity noise. Noise adds significant cost (on average the research shows, $25,000/annum/employee or 33.6% of total staff and management time). In addition, these toxic interface activities will continue to creep in as a result of changes to products, procedures, equipment, new staff, temporary staff, new instructions, legislation, etc. bringing a continual stream of new issues that have to be addressed. Therefore routine maintenance is recommended to sustain optimal results.

The shocking revelation made by Bevington and Sampson, is that these interfacing activities, rendered invisible by widespread failure to document them, distract people from the real job because they absorb almost two days out of the working week of every member of staff and management. Every day these overlooked activities continue to grow unchecked in number and complexity as organisations feverishly build strategic partnerships and outsource elements of manufacturing and services, which keeps on expanding the number of interfaces needed to do business.

The unique feature of the book is that Bevington and Sampson show that there is a solution and it can be fixed, but first it needs acknowledgement, efficient identification and sensible economic decisions about which flaws to fix. They advocate prioritizing the vital few, not the trivial many.

They identify that the opportunity arises from combining two factors which would not normally be considered to work synergistically. These are the top-level management principles that distinguish the best organisations in the world; and the ubiquitous myriad of interfacing activities which are enacted every day to enable 'stuff', transactions and products, to be passed from one person to the next in every one of the business processes. The failure to manage the interfacing activities means that it is impossible for any organisation consistently to achieve its key strategic goals or build strategic capabilities.

Until now there has been no practical way to close this open loop between organisational strategy and everyday processes. Combining management principle implementation with interface mapping will close this loop efficiently and quickly. Interface mapping not only makes all infringements obvious, it puts a cost to each of them so that priorities are easily set and addressed. Through exploring and addressing the relationship between infringement of, or non-compliance with, best-practice principles and the interfacing activities, one can directly build towards the achievement of world's best practice.

Interface mapping, of necessity, involves just about everyone in a firm. In research conducted by the authors, staff revealed that their job descriptions, their procedures and the process maps only contain a fraction of the activities they routinely undertake to do their jobs, and interface mapping proves that they are right. Interface mapping does two important things – it truly engages staff, and it requires those actually doing the work to 'certify' that everything that is done is documented.

This book enables managers first to build and then to maintain an organisation's strategic capabilities with precision. This precision will eliminate the trial and error approach to strategy implementation. It will reduce an organisation's reliance on judgement, guesswork and experience in determining change needs and priorities and speed up delivery of benefits while lowering the effort involved.

The authors warn not to make the mistake that interface mapping only applies to small businesses. Detailed mapping of 5,000 staff can be achieved in as little as three weeks. Interface mapping really is very different from the more superficial process mapping that nearly everyone has some familiarity with.

To support their findings Bevington and Samson have compiled a database of organisations where the staff has been trained in the last five years to map their interface activities. The organisations include banks, hospitals, insurance companies, manufacturers, regulatory bodies, public policy units, call centres, not-for-profit organisations, professional societies, airports, transport companies and utility companies. It includes two of the world's best-known businesses, two businesses in Australia's listed top ten and includes representatives from four continents.

The database shows that the largely unreported interfacing activities account for three out of every four activities routinely undertaken when compared to the pre-existing information in the organisations. Analysis of this interfacing data showed that, on average across all 117 organisations, 33.6 per cent of everyone's time is spent on interface activity noise.

The noise embedded in the usually unrecorded interfacing activity increases the cost of every business transaction by about 50 per cent. Businesses therefore pay the 50 per cent overhead and destroy customer service and staff satisfaction at the same time. Noise distracts them and often prevents them from doing their real job of sustaining and increasing the value of the business. This staff dissatisfaction, lowering of morale and staff engagement, and turnover of staff is also costly.

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