South Africa Business Process Management 2013 – BPM goes Strategic

ITWebBPM is South Africa’s premier event featuring the latest and most incisive business process management learning and next practice.

It was a pleasure meeting so many people from the African continent (and further afield including Finland, Germany and the USA!). Watch the overview video, and if you would like a copy of my keynote, panel sessions or workshop do let me know (

6. Breakpoints – 5 steps to heaven (continued)

Best Practice Tip:
As you name your breakpoints try using the syntax
do something, to something to get something.
An example might be
open the email to action the request

Make sure you follow the instructions we’ve provided in identifying the Break Points in the target area. Getting this right will play a very big part in determining the degree of benefit achieved.

Also, make sure you write them in a descriptive enough way that you can come back a day, a week or a month later and know what each Break Point is…

Enter this information into your template.

Step 3 – Describe your Actions

You are now ready to describe Actions that can be taken to eliminate Break Points. You have the Break Points documented, now what would it take to eliminate some of them from your target area?

For each Action you identify you need to know what the Action is (describe it) and what Break Points it eliminates. Most often Actions will eliminate multiple Break Points.

The number of Actions you identify and describe will depend on many factors. Try and get as many good Actions as you can, doing so will help you create the most beneficial cost reduction plan.

Enter this information into your template.

Step 4 – Do the Cost and Benefit Assessment

What else do we need to know? We need to place our Actions into perspective, which we do by answering three questions:

How Much? How Long? How Beneficial?

“How Much” is the cost (time, expense) of taking the Action? It’s best to judge cost by using the three categories of High, Medium and Low*.

“How Long” should be expressed in days, weeks or possibly months – but never years. Because eliminating causes of work is actually much easier (and less complicated) than fixing effects, most Actions will take 90 days or less*

(*many Actions will take less than 30 days to complete).

“How Beneficial” is the number of Break Points that would be eliminated combined with our judgment of the overall benefit of the Action. It’s also best to judge benefit as High, Medium or Low.

* The use of the High, Medium and Low scale plays an important psychological role in this technique. We really don’t need more detail than this to know which Actions we should take. By choosing to do a more detailed cost/benefit analysis we will create more work and distract ourselves from the goal – which is eliminating costs!

Enter this information into your template.

Step 5 – Build your Cost Reduction Plan

Choosing which Actions are to be taken should be pretty obvious at this point. From the information already gathered we can see which Actions have the most “bang for the buck.” But for the order of the Actions it’s important to create a mix that makes it easy for us to be successful on a regular basis.

Try starting with a “quick win” to get people enthused about the plan. Mix other “quick wins” into the plan to create “breathers.”

Also consider prioritizing an Action that addresses glaring issues – those we all know are “not right.” Doing this communicates your understanding of the people in your organization and your empathy with their concerns.

Number your Actions in the order in which you want them to be taken. Use the same number for Actions that should be taken simultaneously.

5. Breakpoints – The Five Steps for Reducing Costs

The Five Steps for Reducing Costs
Describe your Target – The target is the “area” we are seeking to improve. Most often this would be thought of in terms of a “process” but there is no restriction on how we define the target areas we are working on.

Identify Break Points – For the target area, all of the Break Points that exist need to be identified. They also need to be described well enough that we (and others) can easily recognize them at any time.

Describe your Actions – Describing your actions is the way you clearly identify the steps you could take to eliminate causes of work. By identifying Actions and the number of Break Points each Action will eliminate, the benefit from each Action becomes clear.

Do the Cost and Benefit Assessment – The Cost and Benefit assessment adds several items that are important in helping us build our Cost Reduction Plan. What we need to know is: How Much? How Long? How Beneficial?

Build your Cost Reduction Plan – Using the Cost and Benefit assessment we can now build our Cost Reduction Plan. We do this by choosing which Actions are to be taken, and the order they are taken in.

Let’s explore these Steps in more detail:

Step 1 – Describe your Target Area,

ideally in terms that are understandable to others in your organization. Your Target Area will often be a “process,” as this is one of the most common terms used in describing the work people do.

Step 2 – Identify Break Points.

For the target area, identify each of the Break Points that exist within it, then record them in a descriptive enough way that others (and you if you come back later) will immediately know what you mean.

Note – This may initially present a challenge as it is not something we commonly have done in the past. Persevere and do your best to identify the Break Points in your target area and enough information will be available for you to build your cost reduction plan.

3. Breakpoints – how much work do they create?

A variety of studies exist that place the percentage of time the average employee spends on non-value added work at 40% to 90%. Regardless of where you fall on that scale one thing is obvious…

Identifying and eliminating the causes of non-value added work presents an opportunity for cost reduction of at least 40%. And that’s a prize worth pursuing.

What are Break Points?

Any point within a process where work is handed off is a Break Point. There are four main types of Break Points:

1) person to person

2) person to system

3) system to person

4) system to system.

Break Points are places where stuff goes wrong more often than any place else. Handoffs fail, work is incomplete, and stuff gets duplicated in a cycle that produces a perpetual drain on the organization’s resources.

Like the baton hand-off in Track and Field relay races; if something happens at the hand-off, something unplanned, the next runner must stop running and deal with the resulting issue.

They can’t continue with the race, which is their professional skill, until they have dealt with the failed hand-off. So when something unexpected happens at a hand-off we must stop what we are doing and perform an activity that is nothing to do with our professional skill.

What could go wrong at a Break Point?

For the relay team, the runner waiting for the baton could start too early, either runner could drop the baton, the runner receiving the baton could start too late, either runner could use the wrong hand*, the baton could be slick for some reason causing it to slip… you get the point.

*Many Break Points cause work when the patterns we (people) are used to get changed for any reason. People always create patterns of work behavior. It makes it much easier for us to do things that have repetition. The patterns we’re talking about are not documented anywhere, they are the naturally evolving patterns people in our organizations create to help them do their work.

But these patterns are often violated. For example: a new person is involved (they don’t know the existing pattern), someone is using a different software program, somebody changed a form or document, a new policy went into place requiring people to follow a business rule in how they do a more generic activity like making a request or sending an email, someone’s job changed slightly and they have created a new personal work pattern, a new manager comes in, etc, etc, etc.

To identify with the concept of Break Points (BP) all you have to do is think about the work you do on a daily basis. How much of that work is caused by Break Points?

Think about it.

2. Breakpoints – the root of all internal evil and yet the Promised land?

That is the size of the prize the Break Points Toolkit targets – the rest of the non-value added work iceberg.
Non value-added work is consuming up to 90% of your employees’ time. Yet many of the approaches to increasing utilization are producing little benefit and may even be contributing to the problem. Yet there is a much easier and direct way to identify the causes of this non value-added work in your organization so that you can start eliminating them today!
A Google search on “non value added work” turns up over 104 million matches. It’s an issue we are all very aware of, one that is a source of continuing frustration because most often when we act to increase our utilization somehow the numbers never seem to hit the bottom line.
So what we are doing isn’t working.
We need something different, something that works. Perhaps there is a statistical method or scientific formula that will help us break through this success barrier?
Actually, all you need is a simple technique that allows you to identify the source of the non value-added work so that it can then be removed! 
It’s kind of like a tumor. Before X-Rays, Sonograms, and MRIs, it wasn’t easy to identify a tumor in the human body. With these tools many tumors are now very easy to identify. They stand out like a sore thumb.

For non-value added work our diagnostic machine is Break Points. They are the number one cause of work in organizations everywhere and yet most of the time we aren’t even aware that we should be looking for them.

Like those advanced medical diagnostic machines, using Break Points as our “cause of work diagnostic machine” makes it easy to identify the sources of non-value added work.

And once we have identified them we can take action to eliminate them. That’s where we are going next.


1. Breakpoints – those insidious internal handoffs

insidious – Proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with harmful effects:

Yup that is Breakpoints.

Most process improvement techniques focus on only a small portion of the improvement potential in every process… the tip of the iceberg if you will. 
How big is the opportunity resting out of our sight, hidden below the waterline of current process improvement practices? 
Recent research shows that as much as 70 to 90 percent of the work people do on a daily basis comes directly from Causes of Work and this work is NOT part of the “job” for which these people were hired! Instead, this is non-value added work that takes away from people’s ability to do their job.
Does this sound familiar? Can you identify places in your work or life where these Causes of Work are distracting you from what you really want to be doing?
Are you required to fill out this form, check up on that order, follow-up on those activities, fix the thing that is broken, find what got lost, or explain why this was done that way? 
Do you get tasked with finding the answer, knowing the rules, going to meetings (because), pushing something through, chasing down what really happened, explaining why you did this or that? The list goes on and on but you shouldn’t need to look very far in any part of your life to find all kinds of examples of non-value add work you are doing every single day!
The Break Points Toolkit explicitly targets these “hidden” wasters of time and money. Causes of Work are the “rest of the iceberg” for process improvement that, when addressed, lead to dramatic process improvement results regardless of what kind of process is involved or what kind of organization the process is in.
Can you envisage reducing the costs of your operations by 20%, 30%, 40% or even more than 50%?

Moments of Truth are fine but what about …

Breakpoints an Introduction
The last few articles have focused our attention on the primary cause of all work in our processes – Moments of Truth. Fix those and the benefits are dramatic, immediate and sustainable. However what about this internal work we are doing? All the hand-offs between departments, the relationships with business partners and the wider Supply Chain? That is where Breakpoints come in.


What you will Learn
The Breakpoints Tool Kit provides the means to tackle internal bureaucracy and reduce/eliminate all those handoffs that cause all that work.
The BP Group provides a program built on 8 foundational methods, techniques and skills which help you to deliver triple crown benefits i.e. simultaneously reducing costs, improving revenues and enhancing service.
The steps are practical, sensible and focused on action. The approach provides direction to people who are responsible for organization performance improvement, process realignment and ensuring ‘outside in’ thinking at all levels of business.  If you fall into that category, the method and techniques will help you realize your performance and process objectives. The BP Group recommends this solid and proven approach to senior executives, managers and process performance professionals.
Ready? We start Breakpoints tomorrow. See you then 🙂