Investigating the Relationship between Process Management and Organizational Culture

By Torque Management, Friday, 27th February 2015 | 0 comments
Filed under: BPM, IT, Quality, Process-Improvement.

A Literature Review and Research Agenda by Corinna Grau and Jürgen Moormann

As a Business Process Management consultancy, we see the value in BPM in every type of organization and industry, because we've seen the results. However, in working with various companies, we see one aspect as vitally important time and time again despite the fact that it's often not listed as a 'concrete' element or factor within the various tools or methods that have process management at their core. This secret ingredient also comes up in our conversations with other BPM professionals, indirectly arises as problems or advantages in companies implementing process based changes and one could deduce this element's existence from case studies where changes have successfully taken place also. I would refer to this element as the people element, but it would more appropriately be described as company culture.

How do people work? How do they relate to each other? How do we relate to them? Enda Eames' book 'Personalities at Work' takes a look at some of the dynamics that exist and repeat that can contribute to culture and success and is worth a read for anyone who has to work with people – who doesn't! We also came across an excellent proposal for a research agenda that would take an in-depth look at the relationship between Process Management and organizational Culture. Corinna Grau and Jürgen Moormann put forth some excellent points.

“Managing the business processes of companies is a task which has emerged as a top priority across all industries. However, business process management (BPM) is not just a set of structured methods and technologies which can simply be assigned to employees. On the contrary, the success of any process initiative is interwoven with the culture of the respective company. Additionally, in most cases there is not only one organizational culture but a range of subcultures within the organization due to previous mergers, existing subsidiaries etc.”

They also note something that echoes our own thoughts on BPM, IT and people. “BPM has developed with a strong focus on information technology (IT). However, a limitation solely to an IT-driven approach would not meet the scope of the concept.” and go on to mention that, “A major reason why many process-related projects failed and still fail is the insensitivity concerning the attitude and behavior of the employees involved including the lower and middle management (Cao et al., 2001; Lee & Dale, 1989). Thus, the consideration of the interrelation is highly relevant for a company’s performance.”

Their paper analyzes the status quo of academic literature with regard to the interrelation between BPM and organizational culture and their results revealed differences in the perception of the interface between the two fields and confirmed their feeling that the organizational psychological perspective has been for the most part, neglected in process management literature. Their aim was to develop a framework for further research based on their review.

What is organizational culture and why is it so important to BPM?

Organizational culture is defined within the paper as, “a pattern of basic assumptions discovered or developed within a certain group, while that group learns how to deal with internal and external challenges. If these assumptions prove of value, they are perceived as valid and communicated further to new members of the group.” According to the theory of organizational culture from Schein that they use as the basis for this, it also operates on three distinct levels; 1. basic assumptions, 2. values and norms, and 3. visible artifacts.

BPM seems so structured and so methodical and logical in so many ways that you would wonder how culture could affect it? But according to Grau and Moormann's review, “culture is seen as an integral criterion for the course of an organization’s actions (Mead, 1934; Weber, 1930), and consists of socially conveyed behavior patterns, serving to relate human communities to their environment (Keesing, 1974).” They go on to note research that also shows certain organizational cultures lead to a higher degree of financially measurable business success.

I asked Dee Carri what she thought about it, “For me, what is very interesting about this research is that it confirms many things that I have learnt innately during my career. I’ve often observed that those who succeed, seem to excel in everything. You can look at them through any lens: BPM, Quality, Innovation, it doesn’t really matter – they’re brilliant at all of them! The only logical conclusion is that it has to be more about the “soft stuff” and, for me, that means culture.”

When she talked to people in an company where she's seen a this, one of them shared their take on it, “Of course we have processes, people and technology and don’t get me wrong, these are essential, but they are still only tools. Here, we just want to be the best, and that’s all of us, everywhere. That’s our culture.”

Grau and Moormann, along with many of the resources they cite, do have a level of understanding of that a relationship exists between BPM and culture, and the importance of that relationship, but raise the excellent question of whether it needs to be looked at explicitly and if now is the time to do so.

Access the full paper here

What are your thoughts? Comments welcome here or join the conversation on twitter @TorqueBPM

Dee Carri will be speaking at the PharmaLink 2015 conference. Find out more here >


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