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Management by Process
A Roadmap to Sustainable Business Process Management
by John Jeston and Johan Nelis, published by Elsevier, London, 2008
by Thomas H. Davenport
Jeston and Nelis have given us a highly reasonable approach to the advocacy and implementation of
process management. They not only simply and calmly lay out the principles of managing by process,
but also present several in-depth case studies about organizations that have realized how important
process management is to their success. If process management works for a large, global bank such as
Citibank, manufacturing organizations like Air Products, and medium-sized health care organizations like
Aveant Home Care, why wouldn’t it work for your organization? The answer is that it probably would.
The other appealing aspect of this book—true also of the authors’ last book, Business Process
Management: Practical Guidelines to Successful Implementations—is that they are agnostic as to which
particular approach to improving processes you should employ. As they note in the first chapter,
continuous improvement is well-suited for some leading firms, but not if you need rapid and radical
improvement in your processes. This seems common-sensical, but it is all too rare in the process
management world for leading thinkers to approve of multiple different approaches to process change.
The insistence on a particular approach—be it Six Sigma, Lean, TQM, reengineering, or whatever your
favorite—has probably been one of the reasons why process management in general has not developed
as it should. No particular approach to process management encompasses all of the methods, tools, and
objectives that a large organization needs in managing its processes. Hence the synthetic, agnostic
approach taken in this book is almost always best.
One last process management crime of which this book and these authors are not guilty is overengineering.
Advocates of process management often believe that the world presents a great
opportunity to be engineered and re-engineered. These people believe that a detailed process flow
diagram is the answer to virtually every problem of organizational performance. Jeston and Nelis are not
members of the over-engineering fraternity. They realize that organizations and their processes are
comprised of people, and that process flows and maps—while undeniably useful—are only plans for
how work should be done. As with any sort of plan, getting people to actually follow a process is a
matter of leadership, change management, and human culture and behavior. Unlike many books on
process management, in this volume you’ll find as much—probably more—content on human change
issues than on the engineering aspects of processes.
As the authors note, process management isn’t a silver bullet—but it is a bullet. It’s probably the best
way to get lasting improvements in operational performance from your organization. It’s the best way to
reduce variation in how work is done, and to surprise and delight your customers with your consistent
meeting of their expectations. It’s the best way to reduce unnecessary costs and time as you do your
work. Read this book, implement these ideas, and you will be on your way to achieving these longsought
yet entirely practical goals.