Can You Skip the ‘As-Is’ Process Analysis Altogether?

In a process improvement project is it best not to spend too much time on detailing an ‘as-is’ process analysis and focus on the ‘to-be’ process instead?

One of the arguments against detailing an as-is process analysis is that it precisely hinders the involvement of the people as they may be afraid to be evaluated. Focusing on the ‘to-be’, and making a fresh start based on their suggestions (without bringing the current process in a detailed picture), would then ease participation. But the ‘as-is’ phase is very important because (1) it represents the base for us to start from in improvement process, as (to be) process should result from handling the improvement opportunities in (as is) process, and (2) it ensures the involvement of process people as they share us the information of the ‘as-is’ process and have chance to give suggestions about to-be, thereby increasing the ownership of the new to-be process.

If you do not understand your current processes and what is and is not working then you will fail to successfully define and implement new processes. Even if management offers explicit direction on new processes, you need to know what your starting point is or was. There are several reasons for this: 1) to leverage what is already in place, 2) to socialize change and, regardless of management direction, 3) gain acceptance and support from the team that will be responsible for doing or managing the processes, and 4) identify and fix the existing problems that likely are leading to the new process needs. Otherwise, you’ll get processes that are essentially dead on arrival.

Knowing only the current, ‘as-is’ state does not help without knowing where you want to be in the future state. The first fact is just one data point, which as we know is useless by itself. We have to know both the current and future states of a process in order to measure the gap between. It is the gap that we refer to as a problem and it’s size, the magnitude of the problem. The gap can be characterized with many varying metrics such as quality, speed, or cost, but they should all be aligned to the customer and key strategic objectives. One way to do this is to use an an analogy of a map.

A Map View

Think of a map where the current state is where you are standing now and the future state is where you are going to be. The path to get you there can be clear, straight, and easy – or it can be long, difficult, and filled with obsticles. Without this knowledge (the second data point), how can you plan, chart a path, know when you have achieved success – or if you are lost.

Business process improvement can be driven from various dimensions

BPI can be vision (strategic) driven, customer driven, or benchmark driven; it depends of the scope of BPR project, but whatever the process improvement is, it should start by taking a look on the existing processes. You need a ground to start, and then drive your improvement activities toward a specific goal (vision, benchmark, or customer requirement). If you make a fresh start based on process people suggestions you may, 1) miss the opportunity to overcome real existing process bottlenecks (weak points) or (2) be lead by the process people to something they want (not the real life existing process want) in order to avoid any excess work or any new ways of work.

The problem is that people fear to be evaluated or fired and so it’s best to use a change management program, one that concentrates on people involvement and empowerment in order to make transition period more easily, and to change the mindset that BPI is not a downsizing program, it’s an improvement program. Some companies encourage their people for improvement by announcing that if any process release some resources according to new improved method of work, the resources released will have more training in quality circles, and other improvement activities, which people find more rewarding than their previous regular work.