System Cycles

What if built-in seasonal behavior of our processes and systems overlapped like engine cycles to maintain smooth out put that could be “throttled” as needed to meet demand? We tend to build business systems on functional processes, not on engineering principles. Assembly lines and other operational systems are engineered…business processes typically are not.

As a result, we establish metrics at the functional process level and the business unit level and start pushing those metrics to optimize them. The delays between processes wreak havoc because we do not overlap them in ways that leverage their energy. The result is usually wide swings in output, or even canceling out each other like interference waves.  These swings or cycles in systems are referred to as seasonal behavior. Maybe this seasonal behavior could be utilized so that instead of draining resources, it leverages them. Creating or utilizing system leverage is the key to optimizing those metrics. Simple cause and effect based actions are seldom as effective.

As an example, what we usually do is identify a gap, an area of poor performance, and add resources to fill that gap. For example, adding administrative resources to handle things that get put aside due to workload.  But such a role is disconnected from the essence of the primary role, that they require constant interaction with the primary role to complete their tasks. This is because those tasks do not exist apart from the primary role. This now adds a management layer to the administrative tasks. Good ole abstract thinking in action!

So instead of say, forcing an arbitrary monthly cycle on a business process…find out what the built in cycle is and leverage that. This way your resources can complete their operational work before being distracted by reporting or analysis or planning, etc. Feedback processes in particular need to be scheduled or “tuned” to drive smooth output. Pay particular attention to the built in delays in the system.

If we adjusted things so that planning and analysis and reporting were built into the role…not imposed on an arbitrary cycle time, then maybe you could have a truly scalable role with strong integration to upstream and downstream roles.

© Copyright 2008 Keith Sherwood


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