Getting your enterprise to function successfully through top-down Business Process Reengineering (BPR) can be tough. If your enterprise is within the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), it can be even tougher. Top-down BPR initiatives often aren’t effective in a large enterprise where managers of subordinate organizations can easily derail the effort through subtle resistance.
Is there a solution? Yes, but first, why would subordinate organization managers want to derail a BPR effort? We often hear about the “irrational fears” of “dinosaurs” who are set in their ways and dedicated to the status quo. But, what if the resistance to BPR is a completely rational response to the operating paradigm of the enterprise––not on paper, but the way it actually works? In fact, this is precisely what our experience has shown for subordinate participants in the DoD Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution (PPBE) business process.
So, what are the rules of the annual “PPBE game”?
- Subordinate organizations present to headquarters their annual stated requirement for funds to maintain ready forces and equipment.
- Headquarters determines the assessed requirement of funds for the subordinate organizations, which is almost always less than the subordinates’ stated requirement.
- Headquarters accepts some additional “risk” and provides subordinate organizations only a percentage of the assessed requirement (an even smaller percentage of the stated requirement) as funding available for maintaining ready forces.
The fact that the assessed requirement almost never meets the stated requirement points to the reality that neither one accurately describes the actual requirement––the resources needed for the subordinate organization to conduct its mission. In practice, the subordinate managers also adjust the distribution of funding spent to maintain their readiness during each year. Thus, the actual distribution of funds does not typically match either the stated or assessed requirements. This condition is a product of the “PPBE game,” which itself merits a separate post. But for now, the rules of this game compel the subordinate to intentionally convolute and exaggerate the stated requirement, which drives a skeptical headquarters to generate an assessed requirement less than the stated requirement as a matter of course. In effect, the subordinate promises to deceive headquarters as long as headquarters promises not to believe the subordinate, and vice versa.
So, why would subordinate managers resist a PPBE BPR effort, even when it is solidly based in predictive analytics and designed to establish enterprise-wide transparency and actual requirements? If a subordinate agrees to participate in an effort that replaces its stated requirement (intentionally convoluted and exaggerated as part of the “PPBE game”) with its actual requirement (the truth), it is now agreeing to play a different game with different rules. How can the subordinate be sure that headquarters has also agreed to play by these new rules (no stated or assessed requirements, only actual)? If subordinate managers are suspicious of a purely top-down BPR effort, they will act to protect their organizations’ best interests. The subordinate manager will rationally derail the enterprise BPR to continue playing the old PPBE game.
A key step in successfully developing BPR is gaining consensus from all players through an Integrated Product Team (IPT) or similar mechanism. The IPT is the forum where all of the game’s players can negotiate and ultimately agree to the new rules that BPR will establish. Building enterprise consensus can be difficult and time-consuming, but BPR efforts that skip this step often suffer failures due to the rational actions of responsible stakeholders. At Veracity we have seen excellent results in our projects that assist customers with IPT management. We’ll discuss IPT management techniques in depth in a future post.