“I realised when talking to a local fisherman how much this place has changed over the years. New buildings
have sprung up and a small wood has become almost a forest. Hotels have been built and there are more
boats. But the bay is still the same. The tide washes the sea in and out as it has done for a thousand years.
And the processes of families making their livings continues from generation to generation.”
In the world of business, some processes are relatively stable. Ideally the processes of receiving enough orders from customers to fund the business will have a degree of stability. Production processes may also be stable over time – a machine ca switched on and run at a stable rate for twenty-four hours or even more. A computer can be left on overnight to back up data and delete unnecessary files.
Creating processes, which are standard and predictable, allows stability in planning and management. Of course, stability cannot always be achieved. Some processes are unstable. In some industries predicting sales is like forecasting the weather! In some engineering processes, some operations such as metal cutting can exhibit almost chaotic properties under certain conditions.
History lesson: SHAKE-UP IN TELECOMS
The shake up of the UK telecommunications sector, particularly after privatisation of British Telecommunication, disturbed what had been a stable process for many suppliers.
Suppliers of telecommunications parts had been guaranteed high levels of business from the ‘dinosaur’ utilities. Schedules were relatively stable, demand could be easily predicted for many firms. After privati- sation and the challenge to B.Ts monopoly many suppliers have experienced massive increased in instability of demand from major customers such as B.T.
“We were complacent” says one account manager in the cable supply industry. “The turbulence now in the marketplace has forced us to radically rethink our processes and take a lot of inefficiency out of the system. We had to cut lead times and become more flexible in our delivery processes. We had to respond more quickly on design changes. Other areas for innovation included: sales order processing, marketing, logistics and warehousing. It’s been a very tough battle.”
These suppliers relied on stable business process and this created a climate that worked against innovation. They became complacent. Some suppliers simply didn’t survive that 1980s change. Stability could no longer be relied upon. Change was becoming the only predictable process!
So, process innovation can be focused on trying to stabilise a process to make it more standard and manageable.
PROCESS STABILITY ACTIVITY
List three examples of processes in your organisation, which are relatively stable…
Now list three examples of relatively unstable processes…
Finally, list three processes which you or your organisation would like to increase the level of
The last three on the list represent opportunities for process innovation
Visit the Innovation Realm