For a while now, business theorists have talked about processes. I am finally starting to see reality kick in as manufacturers across Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) are taking action. Recent results from our IDC Manufacturing Insights Business and IT Priorities survey point towards a realistic change in the fundamentals of how the entire value chain is been reengineered using a process approach.
So, what does this really mean? The definition of a process is often defined in very different ways. For me, processes have really come to the forefront with the explosion of supply chain management practices. The Council of Supply Chain Management defines a process as "a series of time-based activities that are linked to complete a specific output."
My definition is somewhat the same, but takes into account an important dynamic that I believe every process-driven organization should think about: systems thinking. What do I mean by systems thinking? We are, in fact, surrounded by natural systems everyday in the form of social, ecological, and climatic systems. However, we never take the time to stop, listen, and watch the collaborative nature of these natural and harmonic interactions. A systems-thinking approach in manufacturing is about taking into account how one action within a series of processes has influence and effect across the entire organization.
Our recent survey results in CEE indicate that manufacturers in the region are turning the tide, moving away from the old traditional functional silo culture towards a process culture supported by a systems thinking approach. Throughout the results, emphasis is placed on information sharing, internal and external collaboration in product development, innovation, quality improvements, and supply chain management. All these facets encompass one another leading to the fulfillment of the most important participant in the value chain: the end customer; not necessarily a specific manufacturing company's customer, but the final purchaser of the finished product. Given the great examples in nature of systems, why is it as manufacturers we can't begin to see upstream and downstream organizations in the value chain as a system? This is more of an overarching theory, so why not begin in your own business, making sure any process development or reengineering of processes encompasses the whole organization as a system, realizing one action has a continuous affect. Let's call it a "process bullwhip effect!"
For CEE manufacturers to begin this journey towards a process-driven systems thinking culture, three key points need to be realized in the organization:
- Leaders, not managers, are the change agents
- Collaborators, not individuals, will build success
- Processes need to be driven by company strategy, not functional metrics
IT is no doubt a key enabler in transforming manufacturers towards this new culture. Solutions promoting information sharing, analytics, and intuitive graphical displays will be the winning business intelligence solutions going forward. Collecting, maintaining, and storing the data; well, that is another conversation entirely.
I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback, and experiences on the changing culture towards process-driven manufacturing, particularly among the developing economies of the world. Feel free to post online or you're welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org